I Retired at 33 By Tracking Every Dollar I Spent

“JM”, a new commenter on the blog, left a great comment asking about tracking spending and how that helps you get to Financial Independence.

“Do you track all your monthly spending, no matter how minute? Did this help get you to Financial Independence? And how?”  -JM

The quick answer is yes, I did track all spending down to the dollar while working towards FI. And looking back, tracking everything I spent was pivotal to accelerating my journey to FI.

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June 2018 Financial Update – Bahamas Edition

We’re living it up in the Bahamas on vacation right now! I’m taking a break from the waves, sun, and sand to provide the regular monthly financial/life update. At this point we are half way through our one month stay.  Although there isn’t much to do here beyond swim in the ocean, play in the pool, and walk along the canals and marshland, we’re having a good time. We brought lots of books and the wifi and air conditioning are top notch!

Did our finances have a nice month too?  In June, we did well from a cash flow perspective with income from investments and the blog exceeding our expenditures. Income was $8,867 while expenses were only $3,554.  The stock market wasn’t very kind to us in June, so our net worth dropped by $16,000 to $2,038,000.  There’s still enough money in the investment accounts to keep me smiling in the Bahamas!

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May 2018 Financial Update – Animals Everywhere!

Over here in the Root of Good household we’re counting down the days till summer. It feels like it’s already here though! May was a lot warmer than usual with highs in the 80’s most days and lots of humidity, including a jolt of moisture from a very early season Tropical Storm Alberto.  I suppose this will be good training for our month in the Bahamas starting in two weeks!

How did we make out money-wise in May?  Our net worth climbed $21,000 to bring the total to $2,054,000.  Reasonably good stock market returns were the main driver of net worth gains in May.  Income remained solid at $3,426 for the month. With $3,366 in spending, our May expenses climbed to the highest point for 2018.  However, it’s still great news that our spending is less than our income!

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April 2018 Financial Update – Busy Times!

April was a blast! It was also an incredibly busy month.  We helped out at the kid’s elementary school by chaperoning a field trip and running the school’s spring carnival raffle.  I spent four days at CampFI Midatlantic where I presented “How to Develop an Early Retirement Budget”.  JD Roth stopped by the house for a few hours before heading up to the camp.  The whole family did a staycation for spring break.  We assembled a couple more bicycles for us adults. To close out April we threw a big birthday party for our six year old.  I’m pretty sure I was less busy when I was working!

In financial terms, April was a good month.  After a couple months of losses, our net worth reversed course and climbed by a modest $9,000 to $2,033,000.  Our spending remained low at $1,977 which was just a tiny bit more than our April income of $1,837.

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March 2018 Financial Update – Spring is Here!

Another month of early retirement is in the books! March was a busy month for us. The weather is finally nice around Raleigh so we enjoyed more time outdoors.  The kids had fun too, with our youngest going on a field trip to the children’s museum that we chaperoned. Our older two children bought themselves bicycles and have been out and about riding on these warm spring days.

Financially, March was a repeat of February. Due to downward movement in the stock market, our net worth dropped by $32,000 to a still-respectable $2,024,000.  Our income of $5,659 far surpassed our spending of $2,025 which means our cash stash continues to grow slightly.

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February 2018 Financial Update – Weathering Big Losses

Time for another monthly update now that I have wrapped up month #54 in my early retirement journey!  Spring arrived a little early in North Carolina and that means more time outdoors for us.  Goodbye two weeks of “real” winter, we hardly knew ye!

From a financial perspective, February was a tough month punctuated by a strong dip in the stock market, officially putting us in a “correction” with the Dow and S&P 500 index both registering declines greater than 10%. At month end our net worth was down by $58,000 to a “mere” $2,056,000. The silver lining is that our income for the month remained strong at $4,736 while expenses of $3,108 tracked closely to our $3,333 budget.  Spending less than you “make” soothes the sting of a big shift downward in net worth.

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January 2018 Financial Update

Wow, January flew by! I can’t believe it’s already February.  Here in North Carolina it was a rather frigid January.  We experienced not one, but TWO (!!) snowstorms during the month which is a rare occurrence.  If you’ve never experienced snow in the South, it’s a treat. Everything shuts down and the kids get a few days off school.  We busted out the sleds, bundled up, and made the most of it.  Ironically we ended up at our neighborhood elementary school where we hit the slopes hard.

January was a fun month for our finances, too.  The market continued its upward trajectory throughout the month and left us much wealthier.  Our net worth climbed $77,000 to $2,114,000.  Income remained strong at $4,055 which more than covered our spending of $1,281 for the month.

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December 2017 Financial Update

Happy New Year!  Another great year in the books for us.  Our youngest started kindergarten. We took an amazing nine week trip to Europe.  And with all the kids in school we were finally able to take advantage of a nice last minute travel deal when Mrs. Root of Good and I jumped on a cruise to the Caribbean for a week.  Our early retirement lifestyle is going well.

Here’s how our finances finished 2017.  Year end dividends rolled into the investment accounts in December pushing our total income to just over $14,000. Our spending was rather high at almost $8,000 (which needs some explaining). Another freakishly good month in the stock market pushed our net worth up another $26,000 to leave us with $2,037,000 at year end. Needless to say, our 2017 went remarkably well from a financial perspective.

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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.

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Costco Costs More: A Cautionary Tale of Bulk Buying Gone Wrong

Every year or two I revisit my assumption that I’m spending my money in an optimal way.  Sometimes this means shopping my home and auto policies to several new insurers to make sure I’m getting the best rates available. More recently, I questioned whether I could save money by buying in bulk at Costco or by shifting more grocery spending to Target or Walmart.

Enter the cost comparison.  During September and October 2017 I stealthily visited five stores near me in the Raleigh area to check prices on sixteen different staple foods.  I chose Trader Joes, Costco, Walmart, Aldi, and Target.

Going into the experiment, I assumed Walmart and Aldi would be the cheapest, with Target slightly more expensive than those two.  Costco would come in fourth place while Trader Joe’s would stand out as the most expensive.  This was exactly the results of my study (with the exception that Target was noticeably more expensive compared to Aldi/Walmart).  Walmart was the cheapest while Trader Joe’s was the most expensive with the other stores falling in between in the predicted order.

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