September 2017 Financial Update
Life is going well for the Root of Good family. The kids are all back in school and we are settling into our new school-time routine. Most weekday mornings start with the walk to school to drop off our kindergartner. Then we play tennis, take a walk, go hiking, or go swimming. As the days grow cooler we’ll adjust our routine to take advantage of warmer afternoons on days that we plan on being outside for a while. I always look forward to fall and this year is no different. For us it means more time outside, campfires, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and time with family.
We just closed the books on September and along with it, marked the end of the third quarter of 2017. Our income spiked up to $7,433 for the month while our expenses remained low at $1,824. Net worth grew by a massive $46,000, thereby boosting our net worth to $1,936,000 by the end of September.
Investment income totaled $3,221 for the month of September. Dividends were higher than most months because our equity mutual funds and ETFs pay dividends quarterly in March, June, September, and December. During other months 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 steady at $4,202. 2017 is going to be a good year for Root of Good income.
My early retirement lifestyle consulting dropped to $0 for the month because I didn’t transfer the fees from a September client consultation session until the beginning of October. October is already looking better for this little side hustle, and I’m totally happy with just a few consulting clients per month (and in fact prefer this pace 🙂 ).
Deposit income of $9 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!).
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 take a look at September expenses:
Like August, spending in September remained low at $1,824. That’s just over half of our budgeted spending of $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year). Taxes were our largest category of spending closely followed by groceries.
Taxes – $600:
Third quarter estimated federal taxes of $600. I paid this with a credit card (and paid a fee just under 2% for that privilege) to meet the minimum spending requirements for a credit card that will give me $500 cash back (or the same amount of travel reimbursement) after spending $4,000 (Capital One Spark Business card, for the curious). The $11 credit card usage fee is filed under the “travel” category.
I paid third quarter estimated North Carolina state taxes in August so it doesn’t show up on this month’s expense summary.
Groceries – $551:
A pretty average month of grocery purchases for us. We spent about half of the total at Aldi and Food Lion (a regional grocer in the Mid-Atlantic states). Aldi is where we routinely shop for most things. Food Lion is very convenient since it’s an easy walk from home. They had a crazy sale in September where all store brand items were $0.25 off (sale runs through October 10, FYI). Many canned goods were $0.03 to $.25 each, and yogurt cups were $0.15 after the discount. When this sale runs every 4-6 months I tend to stock up on things that last a while. I don’t do extreme couponing but I’m okay paying attention to the grocery store sales paper to take advantage of big savings like this opportunity.
Healthcare/Dental – $226:
Mrs. Root of Good and I both visited the dentist in September. We paid cash for our visits that were $99 and $111 each.
The other $16 of healthcare spending was monthly premiums for our health insurance plan that’s mostly paid for with ACA premium subsidies. The ACA came under attack once again in September though it remained unscathed once again.
Business/Misc – $219:
This cost represents my annual domain registration and privacy protection fees for RootofGood.com ($27) plus hosting fees for three years ($192) at my new hosting provider, Rockaway Hosting. I just switched away from Hostgator because I was up for renewal and their renewal rates were rather expensive given some upcoming upgrades I hope to do (including converting Root of Good to HTTPS).
So far Rockaway works flawlessly. Things are running smoothly and their tech support is amazing. I’ve received email responses on tech support issues from the owner at 4 am and 8 pm on weekends (when does he sleep?). Other hosting companies might be slightly cheaper and they might work just fine until you have a technical problem you need help with.
If you have a blog and need to migrate to new hosting soon, or want to start a blog at a reliable host where real people provide tech support, check out Rockaway Hosting (that’s my referral link – if you sign up and I might make a commission on services you buy). And use coupon code ROCK10 if you want to save an extra 10% off their low rates. The code generally stacks with their promotions on multi-year packages, too.
Clothing/shoes – $123:
We finished our back to school and post-Europe trip shopping during September by spending a total of $123 on clothes and shoes.
Travel – $63:
We took a three day trip to Atlantic Beach, North Carolina in September. The hotel itself was free using Chase Ultimate Reward points. Our only expenses were $34 for a tank of gas to get to the beach (about 300 miles round-trip from Raleigh) and $17 for dining out while on vacation. The hotel provided a free hot breakfast each day along with free snacks, fruits, coffee, and hot chocolate throughout the day. Those freebies plus a small assortment of vittles we brought with us kept our vacation food expenses to a minimum.
I took a gamble on the hotel booking. I could have spent 17% more points to book a refundable room and cancel if there was bad weather. I opted to take a chance and save the 17% surcharge and hope for no hurricanes. It worked out in our favor since we dodged both hurricanes that skirted the North Carolina coast in September. I like being my own insurance company since we save tons of money over the long haul.
The last $11 of travel spending for the month was the 1.87% surcharge to pay my $600 estimated taxes. I stick that expense here in the travel category since I’m usually paying taxes on credit cards to snag some free travel.
If you want to save on travel, check out all the credit card offers and find a good sign up bonus that will take you where you want to go. And don’t forget about Airbnb – $40 off your first stay. Our family of five saved thousands of dollars on lodging this past summer in Europe by booking two and three bedroom apartments through Airbnb instead of two hotel rooms (and enjoyed much more spacious accommodations too!).
We stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. It’s a quick three minute walk to the beach and many of the rooms (including ours) come with a great oceanview. For some bizarre reason they charge a premium for rooms with views of the golf course so we luckily got one of the “regular” oceanview rooms on an upper floor. Using Chase Ultimate Reward points, I paid about 7,000 points per night for a suite that accommodates six and comes with a kitchen and living room (and free breakfast for all). This was a nice practical hotel for family trips to the beach.
Restaurants – $21:
Back home in Raleigh, Mrs. Root of Good and I enjoyed a kid-free mid-day post-swimming treat of thin crust NY style pizza (2 smalls for $11 at a local pizzeria). I thought this pizza was better than the thin crust pies we ate in Venice, Italy this summer, but Mrs. Root of Good disagrees with me.
Later in the month we used part of a Papa John’s gift card someone gave us as a thank you for dog sitting. I supplemented the gift card with cash ($10) to get some Papa’s pizza a couple times in September.
Cable/Satellite – $14:
$14.99 per month for 30 mbit/second download speeds and 4 mbit/second upload speeds with no data caps.
Home Improvement – $3:
Bathtub drain washer replacement from Lowe’s. Who knew these things dry rot and leak after 45 years? It’s apparently been leaking off and on since we bought the house 13 years ago and I have just now isolated the leak after many rounds of troubleshooting over the years including breaking stuff, sawing a hole in the wall, poking a hole in the ceiling, a plumber visit, and replacing some plumbing and fixtures. And the whole time it was a $3 faulty rubber washer. This is a situation where it probably would have been cheaper to call the plumber first before trying to DIY. I still need to patch the hole in the ceiling and do some touch up ceiling painting but at least we no longer get the occasional indoor rain shower coming from the second story bathroom.
Year to Date Living Expenses for 2017
Three quarters of the way through 2017 and we have only spent $19,148. That’s more than $10,000 below the $30,000 budgeted for the first nine months of the year.
2017 is shaping up to be a rather unspendy year. We have been fortunate to not have any unexpected emergencies, health scares, or other assaults on our budget. Our planned roof replacement was mostly covered by insurance and our Europe trip came in about $1,500 under our $10,000 budget (and half of the trip was paid for in 2016).
Remaining big expenses for 2017 include summer 2018 travel we book this year plus a more expensive than expected preventative maintenance procedure for our minivan. When we bought the used van last year, I knew it would need some routine maintenance. What I didn’t know was that the recommended spark plug replacement at 120,000 miles costs almost $500! Apparently the layout inside the cramped engine compartment means there are a lot of parts that have to come out to swap out the spark plugs. The shop quoted three hours of labor which translates to at least double that for a guy like me (assuming I only break a few things). The van is a six cylinder and we’re used to paying for maintenance on four cylinder engines. Altogether, this means we’ll be shelling out some big bucks to keep the van running in optimal condition for as long as possible.
I’m tempted to skip or delay this particular routine maintenance but I would hate to lose a cylinder half way through a 1,000+ mile road trip and suffer the consequences which might include missing the departure of our next cruise ($1,000’s of wasted travel dollars). I’m going to follow the frugal but not cheap route on this issue. Our minivan has run flawlessly for the past 1.5 years and I’m hoping it remains reliable another 10 years if we keep it that long. This $500 maintenance should be one of the most expensive routine repairs we experience while we own this vehicle.
Monthly Expense Summary for 2017:
- January 2017 – $3,378
- February 2017 – $2,108
- March 2017 – $1,388
- April 2017 – $2,981
- May 2017 – $1,829
- June 2017 – $2,629
- July 2017 – $1,616
- August 2017 – $1,390
- September 2017 – $1,824
Net Worth: $1,936,000 (+$46,000)
Another mind-blowing +$46,000 explosion of net worth in September. We’re rapidly closing in on the $2 million mark. Two years ago in September of 2015, I never thought we would be this close to the magic 2 million. Since then we have enjoyed a half million dollars of net worth creation thanks (primarily) to a booming stock market. Times are good if you’re a capitalist.
Throughout 2017 I have shifted $110,000 from equities into the Vanguard Total Bond Market Index. If the market keeps going up, I’ll probably take some more profits and shift more equities to bonds. Our portfolio is still over 90% equities so we’ll continue to enjoy huge gains if the market continues its upward march for several more years.
Other than thinking about moving money to bonds and transferring dividends to my checking account every quarter, I spend very little time managing my portfolio since it’s all in passive index funds. Later in the year I’ll be analyzing my tax situation and will probably do one or more of the following:
- harvest some capital gains (yes, gains)
- continue my Roth IRA Conversion Ladder
- fund my solo 401k to create a tax shelter for income from Root of Good
Over the next few months, I’m planning on releasing more Europe Trip Report posts with tons of pictures along with a few other finance-related posts. I’ve been working on a lot of back end technical stuff with the blog and have some more tinkering to do in the next few months. This is exactly the kind of “internet-y” nerding out I hoped to do in early retirement. I just didn’t know exactly what it would look like four years ago when I first made the shift away from working for the man.
Camp FI in Virginia
In other exciting news, I volunteered to speak at a four day retreat in April 2018. At “Camp FI” in Virginia, 50 FIRE-seekers will camp in the woods, recreate, and mingle while listening to and hanging out with their favorite FIRE bloggers and podcasters. Or something like that. There are still several tickets available starting at $225 including lodging, food, and activities for four days if you are interested (click here) (update: as of Nov 1, 2017 these tickets are all sold out but they have a waiting list if you are interested in signing up). Past guests LOVED it – rave reviews. Other camps sold out within days or weeks of tickets going on sale so please be aware tickets won’t be available forever if you’re thinking about it.
I don’t make money if you sign up, but figured I’d throw the opportunity out there for those within driving distance of Petersburg or Richmond, Virginia with $225+ burning a hole in their pockets and an overwhelming desire to saturate themselves in FIRE-knowledge for a few days.
With just under three months left in 2017, how are you going to make the most of it? Ready for fall? Looking forward to the holiday season?