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.


Investment income totaled $345 for the month of January which came from our money market account, CDs, and bond funds.  Our equity mutual funds and ETFs pay dividends quarterly in March, June, September, and December which leaves us with much lower investment income in the other months.

Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, remained roughly the same as last month, at $2,377 for the month of January.

My early retirement lifestyle consulting income (“consulting”) dipped slightly to $728 in January compared to $843 in December.  That works out to almost two hours of consulting per week which is what I’m targeting.


Don’t want to “work” too much or I can’t do this kind of thing when the opportunity presents itself.

Deposit income of $604 was mostly cash back from a credit card sign up bonus from the Capital One Spark Business card.  I completed the bonus offer in November and the cash back check finally showed up in January.  If you aren’t already enjoying the free money and free travel from credit card bonuses, click here to check out the latest bonus offers.

Another small portion of the deposit income 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.  We scored a decent amount of cash back while shopping online over Black Friday and leading up to Christmas and that cash back is getting paid out right now.

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 January expenses:

Our spending totaled $1,281 during January which is a little less than half our budget of $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year).


Groceries – $563:

A fairly ordinary month of grocery spending right at our long term monthly grocery average.  Lately we have shopped at the new Lidl grocery store that opened up in Raleigh in November. Their regular prices are about the same as Aldi, and they offer weekly sales on their already competitively priced products.  We still visit Aldi but find ourselves spending less there for some reason.


Yeah we eat rice and beans. With a side of Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken Curry. Try this curry paste if you want to make delicious homemade butter chicken curry too.


And thai coconut shrimp curry.


I usually buy jars of Maesri pad thai sauce. This time I made the sauce from scratch using tamarind concentrate. Tastes amazing and costs less (about $3.50 for a 16 ounce jar at our local Asian grocery).


Steak fajita time!


Healthcare/Dental – $364:

We spent $364 for our monthly health insurance premium.  That’s the premium after we get a $700 per month ACA premium subsidy based on our income.


We spent two days this winter cleaning up the bank along the lake. Technically we’re trespassing on city property but they’ve pretty much abandoned it so we clear cut the trees and weeds each winter to maintain our lake view.  In the process, we get tons of free firewood.


Taxes – $300:

State of North Carolina estimated quarterly taxes for Q4 2017.  We paid for the federal quarterly estimated taxes using Visa gift cards purchased (at a discount) in December so that expense doesn’t show up in this January financial report.

The state taxes came with a 2% fee (totaling $6) that I’m allocating to the “Travel” category of spending.  We pay the extra fee to generate spending on credit cards so we can qualify for more sign up bonuses each year.  That’s how we get $5,000 to $10,000 in (mostly) free travel or cash back each year.


Restaurants – $32:

$32 for Chinese takeout for our family and my parents.

Sushi takeout from the Chinese restaurant. Good stuff!


Cable/Satellite – $14:

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


Travel – $6:

$6 fee for paying State taxes with a credit card.  Credit card bonus here we come!  Travel plans for 2018 include a month in an oceanfront condo in The Bahamas this summer and a week long cruise in the Caribbean on the brand new MSC Seaside over the Christmas holidays.  The Bahamas trip is all booked and paid for other than a rental car, whereas I still owe about $1,000 on the cruise (due by October).


We “traveled” a few miles up a greenway trail to stumble on this beauty. Lassiter Mill dam in Raleigh.


Gas – $0:

We didn’t buy any gas in January. The last time we refueled the van was December 10.  It’s looking like we’ll make it almost two months between fill ups!  The snowy conditions in January certainly helped conserve gas since it’s no fun to drive around on slippery roads and many places close for inclement weather anyway.  And who has time to go driving around when you can walk to some fun sledding places for free?!


Weeeee! Getting mad slope time at the elementary school.


I like snow in North Carolina. It’s beautiful for a couple of days then it all melts and goes away and it’s 70 degrees within a few days.


But before it warmed up, it was REALLY cold. Like below freezing cold. For more than a week straight, which was a new record in Raleigh. I’ve never seen our lake freeze this solid.


Summary of annual spending from all years of early retirement:


Net Worth: $2,114,000 (+$77,000)

Another crazy month in the stock market. It seems like the market only goes up. Until it doesn’t (like last Friday’s 2%+ drop).

During 2017 we moved to a slightly more conservative asset allocation that now includes about $125,000 of bonds and $50,000 of money market and CDs.  The remaining 90% of our assets are fully invested in the stock market which means we do really well when when the market goes up but we suffer quite a beating when the market drops.

This aggressive asset allocation was responsible for a half million dollars worth of investment returns since October 2016. I’ll take it. I might also give it back in the next stock market correction.

View from our bedroom window. Guess how glad I am that I don’t have to get up and go to work in this mess?

Financial goals in 2018 are to have fun, spend on what we want, and enjoy our wealth.  I might sell another chunk of equities if the market continues it’s upward trajectory.  If I sell more equities, it’ll be a speculative play (instead of a defensive play like my sales in 2017) where I’m building up a source of “dry powder” to deploy in the event of a steep market correction.  We’re sitting on around five years of living expenses in cash/bonds/CDs right now and that should cover us through any kind of recession smaller than the Great Depression.

And that’s how our January went! I’m glad that February is here since that means nicer spring weather isn’t far off. In other news, Mrs. Root of Good celebrates two years of early retirement today!  It’s hard to believe we have both been doing this whole not working thing for so long.



Are you making progress on your 2018 goals?  Still striving to make good on your 2018 New Year’s Resolutions?  



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  1. Nice update Justin, love that pic of the geese. You seem to be keeping things very consistent spending wise.

    BTW, your posts make me hungry with all the food pics, I love me some Tikka Masala!!

  2. Rog,
    I am paying for my wife, 2 three year old twins, and inlaws to go on vacation next February 2019. This is to celebrate my wife graduating college, my promotion to Major in the Army, and to thank my inlaws for watching my kids why my wife was in school. How do I travel hack this? Trying to go someplace warm with a beach.

    1. Start applying for cards 🙂 Chase Sapphire Reserve or preferred for you and your wife = 50k pts x 2 = $1250-1500 of free travel. Southwest cards might be a good bet too if you’re wanting to go somewhere that Southwest flies (and they service your local area). Usually they have 50k SW points for those credit card offers (check here)Look into Airbnb for the six of you – lots of cheap 2 and 3 BR apartments/houses for rent on the beach or very very short walk.

      Warm and cheap = Caribbean. Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Bahamas (prices might be higher), Mexico near Cancun/Cozumel all come to mind.

      1. I have the Chase Sapphire and LOVE IT! We pay for all of our family Christmas presents with the rewards we earn over the year.

  3. Congratulations to Mrs. Root of Good and her 2-year retirement anniversary!

    Man, your investments are really working hard for you lately (+$77k in one month!). Even though it’s mostly unrealized at this point, that’s a good couple of years of living expenses for you guys. Not bad!

    1. I’ve tried several other Kitchens of India curries. Butter chicken was the best. Didn’t like the fish curry as much but I don’t remember it being called malabarie so it’s probably a different kind of fish curry. The ready to eat dal is pretty good too.

  4. Congrats on your continued progress, Justin.

    I’m still amazed each month on how little you spend – not just in terms of quantity/quality, but just how effectively you utilize various resources.

    Whether the credit cards, gift cards, or other subsidies for maintaining income at a certain threshold, it’s very effective.

  5. What a great month! Any travel “hacks” you’d be willing to share with rental cars? I can never seem to get a decent “deal” when traveling….And I’m considering putting some “money to work” during this recent “pull back”….bad time?….good time?….Thanks once more for sharing.

    1. I think booking way ahead of time is a winning strategy. Most of the time you can rebook if the price drops without any penalty. Even if you pre-pay at some places you can still cancel. I like the comparison sites like travelocity, kayak, etc. And play with the dates. Sometimes you can change the booking date by a day or two earlier or later or stretch it out a day or two longer or shorter and get a radically different price.

      As for investing in the pullback, we’re still at pretty high valuations, only back to mid-December 2017 price levels. If you have money you want to get invested now is much better than last week of course. Otherwise, the current price levels aren’t something I’m looking at as “cheap” in absolute terms.

  6. Awesome month! Congrats.
    We did not do as well, due to majority of worth in real estate, generating fairly consistent income.

    Nice to see your spending break out. Being FIREd, and also in Raleigh, our groceries budget is about the same at $600 a month for 2 with occasional snacks for the college kid. We do budget $200 a month for eating out.

    January, is an odd, expensive month due to estimated tax and college tuition. We sold a rental in 4th quarter taxes due or penalties.

    If you are ever interested in discussing Raleigh, Durham real estate note investing, send an email.

    1. Dec/Jan is usually an odd lumpy time for our expenses too with the quarterly estimated taxes, car insurance, and property tax all due within about a 35 day period. The good news is the big lumpy spending is mostly done by Jan 16th 🙂

    2. Hi I am a real estate investor outside of NC. I am based in PA. I have achieved FI through stock market investing, and now i am on the path to increase the wealth substantially through real estate.

      I would like to understand the Raleigh real estate market from you if you don’t mind. May I please call you at your convenience?

  7. A bit further north in Ohio and the cold was even crazier. Unfortunately we don’t have gas hookups to our house (yet) so we are all electric for heat. Our power bill was through the roof!

    Thanks for continuing to post! It’s real motivation for the rest of us FIRE chasers with kids.

  8. Looks like another good month! I’ll have to say, the 2% wasn’t bad, but seeing the futures drop another 3% this weekend was a little erie. I’m staying the course since so young and knowing the stats, but feeling a bit bad for those who are about to retire in the next few years. Feeling like they’re getting in for a nasty surprise…

  9. Well done! (And said) Your current expense level is insanely low for a family of 5!

    Just started shopping at Aldi in the past month and I’ve send my grocery spending slashed by more than $50 already. Can’t believe I had never heard of it before here!

    1. I did that a lot in 2017. Basically quit investing any new money in stocks back in 2016 and slowly shifted $$ to bonds throughout 2017 to take those profits 🙂 It’s a nice feeling right now to know we don’t need to touch our stocks for ~5 years.

  10. Your expenses are so low, that’s amazing!
    Is everything so close where you live that you don’t need to use your car much? Even if I retired , I would still have to refill on gas a few times a month. When the kids were younger I would have to drive them around to friends and/or activities and now they borrow my car to get to work! Will it ever end?:)

    1. It ends when they’re paying for their own car. At least have them give you gas money if they are working and taking your car.

      1. Lol, I am working on that! They already pay for their tuition and special grocery requests!:)
        But regardless, I will most likely spend more on gas than Justin does even without my kids around.

    2. Yes, pretty much everything we routinely drive to is within 0.5 to 2.5 miles. The shorter distance trips like school, library, grocery store, coffee shop, some restaurants we will walk to. A long drive is the 5 miles to the city Nature Preserve for hiking or the 5 miles to our daughters’ middle school downtown. Occasionally we’ll drive further out during the day like if I have a volunteer meeting somewhere but they aren’t much more than 5 miles because we live near the center of town.

      1. Not sure how far they would get in the winter with their bike:) They do take the bus often but sometimes (because of bus schedule) a car is needed! I guess it depends where you live.

    1. Yes, average lows here are around freezing for Dec-Feb though there are plenty of days where it warms up to 60F+ during the day.

      State taxes require quarterly estimated taxes just like fed taxes. It’s only $300/quarter for me since our income is rather low. I suppose I could pay it all at tax time and just pay a small underpayment penalty but I figure quarterly estimated taxes are cheaper overall.

  11. This year is the first year we paid the fee to put our property taxes on a credit card for the points. Our spending is pretty low, so that’s a nice addition to get to earn more sign up bonuses!

    1. I think this was the first year for us too. As long as these credit card offers keep rolling in, I seem to be getting 10-30% return on investment for every dollar spent which is nothing compared to the <2% fees these guys charge to use credit cards. I even realized my local tax can be paid with a prepaid visa debit card and the fee is a tiny flat fee instead of 2% of the charge. I think I ended up paying 0.8% or 0.4% or something in fees in December.

  12. Congrats on two years to Mrs. RoG! You guys appear to be doing incredible!

    We spend roughly double what you guys do… but that’s the west coast for you! It doesn’t seem to have affected our ER numbers however!

    Love all the food pictures too!

    1. The Aldi/Lidl effect 😉

      And you’re right – it all comes down to the numbers. If you’re spending under your safe withdrawal rate it means you’re doing it right

  13. Looking good guys. I can’t believe Mrs. RoG has been retired for 2 years already. Time flies.
    January was an awesome month. I think the stock market will still grow this year. It rose too fast in January so a little dip is fine.
    The sushi takeout doesn’t look that good. 🙂

    1. Yes, time flies when you’re having fun!

      I don’t eat the sushi that much but it’s usually pretty good for what little I do eat. They make it fresh right at the sushi bar. Mrs. Root of Good says they skimp on the raw fish.

      1. Waraji was always our go-to place in Raleigh for Sushi. If you’re looking to up the quality a couple times a year, I highly recommend them.

  14. Looks like your ACA premiums are a little north of $4K for 2018. That seems like a significant uptick over what I thought they were. Did you guys experience a big premium increase or is my memory faulty?

    1. I let the government keep $300/month in ACA credits that I’ll get back at tax time to pay my entire estimated tax burden. 🙂 So the real cost to me for health ins is closer to $60-70/month assuming I hit my AGI target for the year.

  15. You guys are an inspiration to those of us trying to figure out how to live well on less. There might be a book in that idea, and who better than you to write it?

    1. This one was from scratch after googling a few recipes online. The sauce is tamarind concentrate, brown sugar both heated to simmering then off the heat. I added beef bullion paste, soy sauce, and thai chili paste (adjust to spicy tolerance) plus some garlic and black pepper. Then it’s noodles (thin flat rice noodles, maybe called “pho” noodles). Soak em for an hour in cold water. Then get your meat+eggs+veggies cooked. I used thin sliced london broil/top round plus sliced mushrooms, and separately fried eggs. Finally, toss a teaspoon or two of oil in a frying pan on med-hi heat, throw in a handful of the noodles and pan fry for a few seconds. Then add some boiling water to cook the noodles for a minute. Then throw in the meat+eggs+veggies and the sauce and cook for a couple minutes (till noodles are to your liking). Top with lime, cilantro, peanuts.

  16. I recently started laddering brokered CD’s to cover the next year or two of RMD’s in an inherited IRA at Fidelity. Fidelity’s expense ratios on their treasury and government money market mutual funds are outrageous, at 0.42 percent, while Vanguard’s federal money market fund has an expense ratio of 0.11 percent and the treasury money market is 0.09 percent. Whatever Fidelity shaves off the CD’s, the rates are still market rates and a lot better than what you can get from their money market funds.

    1. Those CDs sound a lot better than the crappy money market fund rates. I’m fortunate to have a local credit union paying 1% on MM and 2% on CDs with only a 90 day interest penalty, so I’ve been going that route with $$ not in bond funds.

      1. I’m waiting for 3%+ on the CDs….hoping 3.25-3.5% to come out in the next 3 to 6 months. If luck turns, I’ll take a good chunk on a 5 year for that rate. I dont plan on EWP, so will not be picky (unless the Credit Union has a bad reputation).

        Today the air-gap in stock for about 10 min or so in later trading that was like an economic sinkhole. Saw it live and wondered if the DJIA was going to make it to double digit percentage losses.

  17. This must be the first month my grocery expense was lower than yours, which makes me proud of myself. Of course, my restaurant bill was higher, but much lower than out normal. I don’t think we broke $200, which is awesome because we normally spend over $400!

    1. Nice! Restaurant spending seems to be the easiest way to slash overall food spending if that’s your goal. Let’s compare grocery and dining out $$s next month 🙂

  18. Nice month. January giveth. February taketh away (it appear).

    It will be refreshing to see all the blogs I follow have a big negative month. Reality needs to show up at some point.

    All the 100/0 stock people and Bitcoiners have to realize there is a middle ground.

    1. Yep, January’s gains are officially gone 🙂 I’m back at mid-December 2017 wealth levels. I’ve actually noticed a few bloggers I follow that have moved to slightly more conservative portfolios that incorporate 10%+ bonds and they’ve made the move over the past year. But yeah, we’re in month 17 or something crazy of consecutive monthly net worth increases and that’s just not normal. Volatility is a good thing long term to keep expectations realistic.

  19. Had no idea it snows to that extent in North Carolina! We’re in the UK right now and it’s cold but thankfully hasn’t snowed.

    Congrats on another awesome month! Looks like the long expected correction in the market is finally happening. Thank you Yield Shield! 🙂 Dividends are super fun at times like these.

    1. It’s kind of nice. We get 4 real seasons. It’s cold, it snows. We sled. Then it all melts and it’s 60-70F, sunny and dry and we do fun outdoorsy stuff in the middle of winter. We’re basically trapped in between your horrible arctic polar Canadian freezing weather and the nice warm tropical weather from Florida and Caribbean. Depending on the jet stream movements it could be tropical or freezing.

  20. Florida had freezing temps too 28 degrees in central Florida and snow in northern Florida. We’ve had 3 freezes so far this winter. Very unusual.
    We’ve been waiting for a market correction, just wondering if yesterday will be the end or if further dips are in order.

    1. That is cold for Florida! I remember we were in Jacksonville in January a couple years ago and it was much colder than I would expect. I guess N Florida has more typical southeast USA weather that Georgia, NC and SC get.

  21. If you ever need an additional source of revenue, youtube cooking classes would probably be a good fit. That food looks amazing even if you don’t realize how little was spent on it.

    Congrats on another good month!

  22. Nice pictures! Seems like you guys had a blast in January. Very cool orange toque/beanie too! Great color 😉
    Best of luck in February, not too worries about your expenses, but your wealth might take a bit of a hit if yesterday is any indication.

    1. I should put a disclaimer into my monthly financial updates about things like utilities. I often pre-pay these in one big lump sum to meet the minimum spending requirements on new credit cards. As a result I usually have a credit balance on my electric, nat gas, and water bills. I just did this in the last few days totaling almost $2000 so now I won’t have any utility bills till August or so 🙂 Usually I would pay about $250/month or so.

  23. Having gone thru the dot com roller coaster as a youngster (ha!), I feel much better prepared to weather the current correction.

    And by way of giving credit when due, because I read ROOTOFGOOD and followed some of your advice about selling into the exuberance of the past year, I’m happily sitting on some massive gains stored safely away in ABS…(anything but stocks).

    I have no doubt I’ll be buying again soon, but probably not before it rolls down around 10%.

    So thanks for great financial ideas!

    (Since all my relatives are from Plymouth, next time I visit NC I’ll bring your some cookies in appreciation!)

    1. Good to hear you have some peace of mind 🙂 I’m certainly enjoying the stability of a five year fixed income cushion so the occasional 4% drop in 1 day doesn’t phase me.

    1. It’s hard because it’s usually improvised as I go and a little different each time. I googled up a few recipes for tamarind concentrate to make the pad thai sauce from scratch and sort of incorporated all of those!

  24. I had the luxury of driving home to Delaware from Charlotte the day after one of your snowstorms. Happy to report that North Carolina fulfilled all southern-state-dealing-with-the-snow stereotypes I could imagine – including someone with like 4 inches of snow on his car roof and rear glass driving up I-85!
    Glad you got to enjoy the weather though 🙂

    1. I had my first ever “driving in snow” for long distances experience this past December. 3 hours Raleigh to past Charlotte. Not too bad but the roads were clear and nobody much was driving 🙂 There’s always those special people that don’t clean off their cars very well and I bet we’re all a little guilty of it down here since we rarely deal with snow.

  25. how did you say you get 30mb internet again, and for 14/month? Aren’t you time warner/spectrum? I was locked in at 40/month with time warner, but just recently spectrum increased my rate to 54/month. They claim they only have 100mb speed, so that is the lowest they can go for price.

    I’m kind of stuck b/c where I live we don’t get any other providers.


  26. Hi Justin, Whats the name of your internet co. And which plan is it that its only 14.00 a mo. Is that price for the yr. Do you have to change plans/co. every yr. for the incredible low rate, etc?

  27. Thanks for the informative and inspirational updates.
    I also like nice the photos.
    Good luck in February with your stocks !

  28. and you wont even care about major losses on the market currently because you cant even spend what you earn…you’re so lucky man

  29. Another month crushing it! It will be interesting to see how February continues to unfold for the stock market. Not that I’d worry if I were in your shoes 🙂

    I have to ask, who is your internet service provider? $14.99/month is a great price!

  30. Great update, as usual Justin! We’ll see how the rest of February shakes out but if your net worth is up from 31-Jan as of right now I want to know your secrets 😉

    We are still on track for June 1 FIRE but the President of my company did re-approach me with an offer to stay until December that is tempting. Especially with this newfound volatility in the market. Also working until Dec. means we could be immediately eligible for subsidies next January…. So tough to decide these things 🙂

    1. Good position to be in. Take the extension of employment if it buys peace of mind. You’ve got a lot of life left to live and no need to feel undercapitalized later on. Odds are that we’re closer to a top in the market instead of a bottom of the market in my opinion.

  31. Nice update! Awesome pictures, especially that sushi…
    You have seriously impressive income, especially considering that you have already hit FI.
    Keep up the great work!

  32. Still love this site. I have since shared it with my family, a co-worker and a night class I teach! I am even dabbling in blogging about my journey 🙂

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