January 2019 Financial Update

January was another busy month for us in the Root of Good household. We worked hard planning our summer trip to Southeast Asia. We got outside and played a bit when the weather was nice. And we bundled up against the cold when winter returned with full force. 

Financially, last month was quite a blockbuster. Our net worth jumped $133,000 to re-cross the mythical $2,000,000 mark and land at $2,004,000 by month’s end. Income was strong at $3,779 while expenses remained within our budget at $2,937.

Let’s dive into January’s financial update!




Investment income totaled $459 in January. Our equity mutual funds and ETFs pay dividends quarterly in March, June, September, and December so January was expected to be a low income month for our investments.

Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, totaled $2,862 for the month of January. I’m expecting a lower revenue month in February and March.

My early retirement lifestyle consulting income (“consulting”) remained steady at $240 in January. That came from a single two hour session with one client.  After raising rates for 2019 by 4%, I’m still getting some interest in consulting services.

Deposit income of $217 came from the Ebates.com and Mrrebates.com online shopping portals (some of which was earned from you readers signing up through these links) plus some ebay selling.

If you sign up for Ebates through this link and make a qualifying $25 purchase through Ebates, you’ll get a $10 gift card. 

In January, I received my new United Business Explorer credit card. It comes with a 75,000 United mile bonus and two free passes to the United Club Lounge. These passes sold for $61 on ebay (included in “deposit” income in the summary).



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).

Tracking spending was one of the critical steps I took that allowed me to retire at 33. And it’s now easier than ever with Personal Capital.



Now let’s take a look at January expenses:


In total, we spent $2,937 during January which is about $400 less than our target spending of $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year).  The top expense categories for January were travel and groceries. 


Detailed breakdown of spending:


Travel – $1,762:

January was a rather expensive month in the travel category. The biggest single expense was the $1,193 final payment for our spring break cruise to Cuba aboard the MSC Armonia. 

The bulk of the remaining travel spending in January came from our hard work booking all the lodging for our eight week trip to Southeast Asia this summer. We have been accumulating Airbnb gift card credit at a discount and continued to do so in January with $186 spent at Raise.com to buy $200 worth of Airbnb gift cards. 

We also paid $340 to buy $400 worth of Hotels.com gift cards which we redeemed for three hotel rooms for a week in Siem Reap, Cambodia (where the Angkor Wat temple complex is located). 

Closing out the Southeast Asia lodging spending was a $9 charge for two hotel rooms for one night in Saigon, Vietnam. I combined a $40 travel credit from Expedia Reward points plus $9 out of pocket to book the hotel rooms right next to the bus station in Saigon for $49 total. 

Now that the lodging for Southeast Asia is all booked, I can reveal what we spent on lodging for eight weeks. After factoring in all the discounted Airbnb gift cards we bought over the past year, we spent about $2,700 on lodging for the whole trip. That’s an average of $48 per night. In general, we are staying in three bedroom apartments or three hotel rooms the entire time.

We could have gone with much cheaper lodging. However we decided to pay more so we could stay in nicer accommodations. Two of the apartments we rented are in high rise luxury condo buildings with rooftop pools (for example). 

We still have about $1,100 in Airbnb gift cards left over. We’ll use those on our summer 2020 adventures which might occur in Central Europe or South America. 

Airbnb plays a huge role in keeping lodging expenses moderate when our family travels. Save $40 off your first Airbnb stay with my airbnb referral link.

The remaining $35 in travel spending in January was the local processing agent fee to renew our six year old’s passport. There will be an $80 expense in February that covers the actual passport renewal. Child passports are crazy expensive at $115 total and they expire after five years! Fortunately, it’s in the travel budget to cover these “hidden” costs of traveling with kids. 

If you want to score some free travel from credit cards, there are several cards currently offering 50,000 points or more. These points can be redeemed for $500 cash or $500+ in free flights or hotel stays. Compare travel credit card deals.


No vacations in January. But we did stay up past midnight to watch the lunar eclipse from our driveway.



Groceries – $605:

January’s grocery bill was a little higher than usual. Part of the reason is the $265 purchase of a $275 Walmart gift card. I still have over $100 remaining on the gift card which will make February (and possibly March) grocery spending lower than usual. 

In general, we tend to shop at Aldi, Lidl, and Superwalmart for most items. Occasionally I’ll visit our neighborhood Food Lion to pick up some sale items or grab a few things out of convenience. Food Lion had a great sale on lean cuts of beef in January so we bought quite a bit.

One place we never shop for groceries is Costco because it’s one of the more expensive stores in our area


Mrs. Root of Good’s handiwork: Laotian/Cambodian Tom Khem soup. Caramelized pork and boiled eggs in a sweet and savory broth.



Healthcare/Medical – $186:

Our new 2019 healthcare premiums are $31 per month thanks to very generous Affordable Care Act subsidies that we receive due to our low ~$40,000 per year Adjusted Gross Income. 

The bulk of our health/dental spending occurred when Mrs. Root of Good visited the dentist for a routine cleaning and had annual x-rays completed for $150 total. 

The remaining $5 of healthcare spending was a $5 copay for a doctor visit. 


Utilities – $154:

The natural gas bill was $86 which covers heating and hot water. I paid $68 toward the water bill though it’s usually $100-125 per month. I had a small credit balance due to pre-paying the water bill to meet the minimum spending requirements for credit card sign up bonus offers

The electric bill still has a positive credit balance so I paid nothing toward it in January.


Clothing/shoes – $70:

Four pair of shoes. Mrs. Root of Good found a great deal on Saucony Excursion TR11 shoes priced at $17.50 each so she added three pair to her cart. We also grabbed some Saucony Cohesion shoes for our six year old for $15 since that’s about what a crappy pair of shoes costs at Walmart (but this is a hopefully better built name brand shoe!). 


We go through a lot of shoes since we go walking and hiking quite a bit. This impromptu artwork decorated the temporary construction fencing at the city’s nature preserve.



Restaurants – $68:

We spent $48 for a family meal at the Chinese/sushi/hibachi buffet. The older two kids pay adult prices now, so we’re almost at $50/meal after tax and tip.  

In other restaurant expenses, we spent $20 for pad thai for the whole family from Pei Wei. I bought a $25 gift card for $20 and still have a couple bucks left on the card. 


Mrs. Root of Good loves going to the Chinese restaurant. Pretty solid sushi selection for $8.99. I got a plate full of grilled steak (not pictured)



Home Maintenance – $44:

There’s nothing fun in this category unfortunately. I spent $39 on three new toilet seats from Home Depot. At least I’m savvy enough at DIY skills that I was able to replace the old seats in about five minutes each. And most of that time was spent cleaning the installation site thoroughly and unwrapping the new seats.

I also spent $6 on a chainsaw sharpening file set from the neighborhood Harbor Freight store.

End result: we have three shiny white new toilet seats, a tree-free lakefront, a pile of firewood for future lakefront campfires, and a sharp (borrowed) chainsaw.


Gifts – $21:

For my daughter’s Christmas present, I bought her a $99 Moto G6 cell phone  from Google Fi during a sweet Black Friday sale a couple months ago. In January I spent another $21 to buy a Freedompop SIM and activate it on the Freedompop network. A small up front cost to get free cell service on a recurring basis. 


Not a monetary gift, but a gift of expertise. I helped my son open his first Vanguard account and bought $600 worth of the Vanguard Total World Index ETF using his money. He’s already up $45 since the purchase! Future millionaire in the making.



Electronics – $15:

Mrs. Root of Good bought a Canon T5i DSLR camera several years ago. We also bought a pair of cheapo no-name spare batteries. After tens of thousands of shots, these batteries aren’t performing well. We need a lot of battery life when we’re traveling through Southeast Asia this summer, so it’s time for an upgrade. 

While searching for a reasonably priced genuine Canon replacement battery (model LP-E8 battery for the camera enthusiasts out there), I couldn’t find anything for less than $50. 

Then I went to ebay and found a new genuine battery still in the original packaging. I paid $15 for it. Once it arrived I realized it was manufactured in 2011! So far it’s working great but I have my doubts about the longevity of the battery given how old it is. At least we didn’t pay much more than the cost of a knock-off no-name battery. 


Cable/Satellite – $15:

$15 for one month’s internet bill. We qualify for a local reduced rate package due to having a lower income and having kids. 30 mbit/s download, 4 mbit/s upload.


Gas – $0:

I didn’t buy any gas in January but I did just fill up the tank in early February. Hopefully I can stretch this tank till we drive through South Carolina (“The Cheap Gas State”) on the way to our cruise to Cuba in April. 


My favorite spot in the woods. We try to take advantage of those 70F degree days in the middle of winter. That’s a lot easier now that we aren’t stuck inside the office all day!



Total Spending in 2019

Since it’s January, the year to date spending total is simply last month’s spending of $2,937. For the sake of consistency, I’ll leave this section in the monthly financial update. 

So far the year is off to a great start since we have spent about $400 less than the $3,333 we budgeted for one month as part of our $40,000 annual early retirement budget.

This is good news on the heels of last year’s $11,000 budget surplus when we only spent $29,000! 

Spending for the next several months should be rather modest even though we have several trips coming up soon: 

  • In a few days we hop on a plane to celebrate our fifteenth wedding anniversary with an eleven day trip to Mexico City
  • April finds us on a week long cruise to several Caribbean islands including Cuba and Cozumel in Mexico
  • In June we depart for eight weeks of adventuring in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. 

Other than meals, gratuities, ground transportation, and incidentals, we are mostly paid in full for these three trips. 


Flashback: Monthly Expense Summary for 2018:


Summary of annual spending from all years of early retirement:


We got a snapshot of this real-life angry bird during one of the bouts of freezing weather in January. This bluebird puffed up to keep the freezing winds at bay.



Net Worth: $2,004,000 (+$133,000!!!)

After a really ugly December where we lost $117,000 in a single month, January was a welcome respite from the sharp stock market decline we were experiencing at year-end. In January, the stock market reversed course, erased all of December’s losses and even gained a small bit of ground to bring our net worth $133,000 higher to end the month at $2,004,000.

There’s something to be said about being above an arbitrary round threshold number like $2 million. We retired with much less than this and watched our portfolio grow by more than a half million dollars post-retirement, so now we feel rather wealthy! 



Truth be told, I don’t spend a lot of time looking at my investment portfolio and didn’t touch it a bit during January. I mostly collect the dividends and let it ride. I’m still hanging on to my boring 90% stock / 10% bond+cash+CDs asset allocation.  If the market goes way up I might take some profit and move some more funds into the fixed income side. Conversely, if the market dips really low I may shift some safe money into the stock allocation. 


Another good month of early retirement.


Or we may keep on doing nothing. We’ll see how things go with our cash reserves and upcoming spending needs. At this point, I feel like we have “won the game” and don’t need to take on every last bit of risk to eek out a small additional return.

In other news, Mrs. Root of Good  just celebrated her three year anniversary of early retirement

And that’s it for the January update. Back to my full time occupation of doing as little as possible

Stay relaxed, my friends. 


How is the new year treating you? I bet you enjoyed that wild January stock market recovery a lot more than the big fat nothingburger losses in December, huh? 



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  1. Hi. What is the annual yield approximately from your stock and bond portfolio? Ps if the market goes to new highs this year I would recommend you switch some of that equity portfolio into safer assets. Just a bit.

    1. I haven’t looked that closely at yield as a %. US investments are just under 2%, international seems to be a bit higher at 2.5-3%. Vanguard says the bond fund yields 3.16% (and bonds are >80% of our fixed income). So I’m guessing somewhere around 2.3-2.5% overall yield.

      And I agree with you – I’ll probably be switching some $ from equities to bonds or CDs if we see a 15-20% increase in the short term. That nice thick layer of safe assets feels pretty comfortable when the market gets really ugly 🙂

  2. It was definitely a great January. (Apparently the best in 30 years despite the doom and gloom you see on the news!)

    Great update. It is definitely nice to splurge when in SE Asia (even though it really isn’t a splurge)

    Quick question: I have never been on a cruise (Maybe an overreaction to the perceived environmental impact) I love the idea of Cuba, how much time do you actually get to spend off the boat?

    1. That’s the thinking for SE Asia – it’s probably one of the cheaper regions we’ll ever visit so spending more for luxury/convenience doesn’t come with a huge marginal cost. Luxury apartment is only $25-50/nt more than a really crappy backpacker hostel for example. Dining out for $1-3 each vs cooking at the apartment for <$1. We'll go back to taking public transportation and saving our dollars when we visit a really high COL area on future trips. As for the cruise, time in port really varies. Typically you are very limited. A normal port of call would be from, say, 8 am to 4 pm but you'll lose a little bit of time with getting off and back on the ship. So maybe 6-7 hrs realistically. But when we go to Cuba, they dock at 1 pm on one day and we stay docked overnight in the port in Havana and then have all day the next day till 5 pm. So we will get to go out in the afternoon, then come back to the ship, cool off, have a nice dinner, and go back out for some nighttime exploring. Then the next day we can spend all day doing whatever. Not as much time as we usually spend in a country but enough to see quite a bit in the capital at least.

  3. Good to see US markets bounced back…here in India the pain still continues and markets are bleeding….all the best with your investments….

    1. Hey thanks! I hold a lot of international investments and they haven’t done well over the past 10 years but the cycles come and go.

      Do you diversify outside the Indian stock market?

  4. Another great month for you and your family for spending and saving. I also own a Canon T5i DSLR camera, and I love the pictures its takes; but its so bulky to travel with on airplanes. Next month when we take our 14-night transatlantic cruise, I plan to take my high quality point and shoot camera. I have about 4 or 5 lens for my DSLR, and by the time I pack all the gear it counts as another carry on for the plane ride to Miami. I try to pack as light as possible to save on the bag fees.

    I did use some of your ideas for my cruise and airfare. I used banked airline miles to purchase the flight from home to Miami for a small fee, then I purchased points from American Airlines during a points sale to book my return home airfare from Rome. It appears that I saved about $1k on the airfare back to my little city of Lynchburg, VA; instead of a large airport which are 2-4 hours away. I also signed up for the American Airlines Card Credit which gives me and up to 3 companions one free checked bag. For my hotel in Miami, I used Hilton points to stay free in a Hampton Inn near the airport and this includes a free shuttle from the airport to hotel. I will have to take an Uber to the cruise port, but I love Uber. Using Uber is cheaper than paying parking fees and car rental fees.

    As the old saying the says “The Devil is in the Details”, and I say its always the small expenses that cause issues for people. It takes time to make money, and saving on little things will help build a big savings account.

    1. I feel the same way about the big bulky camera but that is Mrs. Root of Good’s baby 🙂 Maybe we’ll upgrade to a fancy little compact point and shoot some day.

      Good job on hacking all those points/miles together! That’s how we do it too. A little bit here, a little bit there. Save $80 by taking uber instead of paying for cruise port parking (we parked 10 minutes away for $50 instead of $150 at Port).

  5. What a great start of the year Justin. Portfolio value above 2 million again, expenses below budget and 3 upcoming trips planned and paid for. Still, you buy a 275$ Walmart gift card to save 10$ on groceries. You’re very disciplined. With that approach I’m sure you’ll never run out of money no matter how the markets behave. Well done!

    1. I should add the Walmart gift card came with another $3 in cash back using a shopping portal. Still, an easy $13 for ~5 minutes worth of work and I spend $1000+ at Walmart annually so I’m guaranteed to use the card up rather quickly.

  6. ououou…help me out here. I’m trying to open a brokerage acct for my 2yr son for months now and they don’t let me if not an UTMA/UGMA which I don’t want. How did you manage to open an acct to your minor son and buy ETFs on it? Don’t tell me it’s a 529 (which I’d be very disappointed for your son)

    1. I did UTMA account. Not sure if there’s another option. UTMA is just the legal requirement to have an adult manage/control the account since a 2 year old typically can’t do things on their own! 😉

      Nothing wrong with 529 if it matches your needs/intent but I already have one elsewhere. I’d probably pick NY Direct plan instead of Vanguard anyway if I was going 529 route.

  7. Awesome start for 2019! Happy to hear that you’ve recovered from your paper loss last December. We’re still in the negative territory with our stock portfolio so far, but it’s slowly inching it’s way up. It’s simply because of one stock that’s still dragging our stock investment. We’re planning on visiting Singapore and the Philippines in the summer as well. Which Asian countries will you be visiting?

  8. Why do you open accounts for the kiddos separately? Is there a monetary benefit? I can see the parental benefit of teaching them how to build wealth but I’ve wondered if it’s better to put all the funds together for higher rate of return. Your thoughts?

    1. It’s his money so it’s easier to keep it separate. He’s getting the same return as anyone else since he’s buying commission free Vanguard ETFs. Expense ratio somewhere around 0.1% so a nice competitive fee too!

      And yes, hopefully he’ll be interested in looking at his investments and continue on that path as an adult.

  9. I’m intrigued by the mention of Freedompop. I’ve been using a Freedompop hot spot for data services for years. Usually it works great, but I hesitate to reccommend it. When things don’t work, it can be a bit of an ordeal to get support. It will be interesting to see how it works for you as a phone.

    1. I’m not sure I’d recommend it either unless you enjoy tweaking your electronics. It’s not without hassle. We’re not heavily reliant on cell service so the occasional issue isn’t bad to deal with. If you don’t mind spending $10-20/mo there are tons of better options.

  10. Congrats on the good start to 2019. You reminded me that I have to start looking into the Cuba cruise too. That would be a 2020 plan at the earliest. I’m curious to read about your experience when you go.

    That’s cool about opening up the Vanguard account for your son. I opened up my first Vanguard this past weekend. I have a ton of other brokerages for various reasons (Rollover IRA, Roth IRA, SEP-IRA) etc., so with one more specific account, it was time to give Vanguard a try.

    I have a lot of my kids’ money invested in Robinhood. It’s done quite well over the last few years. Unfortunately they don’t have a custodial account, so it’s in my name. I just have them contribute equal amounts so that I they each have 50% ownership.

    1. Good to know there is an Admiral share class. I bought the ETF version but I see they have the same 0.1% expense ratio! Nice all in 1 fund if you don’t need a slice of bonds in there.

  11. We were out camping the night of super wolf blood moon. Damn, that was cold. Why no pics of the toilet seat “installation sites?” I went through that same process about a year ago. $39 is awful good for 3 new bottomless seats.

    Yes, I found the January stock market much more enjoyable than the nothingburger served up in December.

    I like this: “I feel like we have “won the game” and don’t need to take on every last bit of risk to eek out a small additional return.”

    1. I didn’t figure anyone would want pics of me swapping out toilet seats! With these new-fangled pop and release hinges it should only take 20 seconds each next time around (plus cleaning up a bit around the bolt head if one is so inclined). Nothing special about the seats and I didn’t realize $39 was cheap. Regular price at home depot online as far as I recall. They were the low end version but seem to be slightly better quality than the cheapo ones I bought at Walmart once upon a time.

  12. doing as little as possible. i love it. i do that now even with my low impact J.O.B. and don’t feel the least bit guilty. we even enjoy some television, oh the horror! we had a nice bounce back january too, 72k i think. we use preferred stock etf’s in place of where bonds would otherwise reside because of the huge yields. they boost the overall portfolio yield and pay monthly, which i enjoy.

    that’s some good looking pork with broth.

  13. Congrats on your upcoming 15th wedding anniversary. That’s an ever bigger update than your financial one IMHO and good job at sneaking it into this post 🙂

    As world travelers, we just wrapped up a 100+ days in Mexico which included 6 weeks in Mexico City. We share our detailed budget and our top recommendations in our Mexico City destination report: https://www.nomadnumbers.com/cost-of-our-nomad-living-in-mexico-city/

    We highly recommend to stop by Tepoztlan if you have the chance as it was our biggest surprise and highlight of our stay in CDMX. We also have an article about Tepoztlan with some nice drone footage: https://www.nomadnumbers.com/weekend-trip-tepoztlan-mexico/

    1. Hey thanks for the links! I was just reviewing and responding to old comments from the past few weeks and saw your previous comment about your travels and spent some time on the blog. Looks great! I added a few things to my “might want to do/see/eat this” list for our Mexico City trip.

      We’ve been to Tepoztlan a few times before and climbed up to the pyramid. Definitely a cool place. I doubt we’ll be ambitious enough to make our way down there from Mexico City but it’s a great place to visit for sure!

      And I saw your other post on Oaxaca. Love that place too! I was surprised Oaxaca scored a higher ranking from you than el De Efe but I understand it’s big city and sometimes polluted. We were lucky last time in DF and there wasn’t much pollution at all. Hopefully we’ll be lucky again in that regard!

  14. Great start to the year Justin! You guys are going to have a great time in SE Asia!

    Believe it or not, I think this is the first month my grocery bill came in lower than yours. That’s something of a miracle!

    Now I no longer need to be jealous of your low food spending! 🙂

  15. Another excellent month – congratulations! Couple of helpful comments:

    1. I wear primarily Asics Gel and Saucony Cohesion shoes for both running and walking. Finding myself steering more towards the Saucony since they have a very durable sole.

    2. We are into our third and final month in SC, specifically the North Myrtle Beach area. Gas prices are generally somewhat indicative of the rest of the state. As with most of the country prices have risen a little recently and are currently from $1.89 to an average of the low $2s per gallon.

    3. I envy your son. While my parents taught me the value of money, they were not financially astute people when it came to investing, since it wasn’t common knowledge back then. Took me longer than it should have to realize the wisdom of mutual funds and other vehicles. He will do quite well with a leg up from Dad.

    1. Everyone in the house will be converted over to Saucony’s except me. Might have to upgrade too!

      I’m hoping the money mindset influences the kids. I think my older two are fans of early retirement after observing our life of semi-luxury and leisure. We’ll see how my son turns out 🙂

  16. **”We go through a lot of shoes since we go walking and hiking quite a bit.”**

    I’m starting to think you’ve gone through so many shoes that you’ve given up on the idea. If the quality of a man’s life can be judged by how often he’s chillin’ barefoot, yours is toe-to-toe with the best!

  17. Just one doubt….

    You were able to achieve FIRE because of steady income from your blog right ?
    Without blog income would you still have achieved FIRE ?

    1. We had $1.2 million when I retired 5 years ago. Plenty to support our spending of $40,000 per year at a 3.3% withdrawal rate (considered to be very safe).

      In fact, we have watched our portfolio grow and grow since retiring and most of that came from the stock market and not from blog earnings.

      Blog income is just an extra layer of security at this point.

  18. Great article Justin. I am really inspired by your effectiveness and efficiency in planning family trips. And no doubt about your money management skills. I learn a a lot from your sites.

    I have never stayed in AirBnB before. The reason was I felt somewhat awkward staying at someone’s house. But since it has become so popular these day, I am thinking to give it a try. I am planning 2 weeks vacation to Boston and Philadelphia with my family this June. I saw your referral link to AirBnB. Quick question:

    1) How does the link work?
    2) Is there any hidden fees for signing up and any cost or any surprises?
    3) Is there any deadline for staying after signing up?

    I would appreciate your reply.

    1. 1. Click through the link and sign up. Should be a discount applied when you book your first stay of $75 or more (I think that’s the minimum now).

      2. No fees for signing up. No real surprises. Airbnb does charge a “service fee” but it’s clearly shown on the booking page when you click to view a property. I think it ranges from 6-12% depending on how long you stay somewhere. That’s how they make money and it’s basically built into hotel room rates (most of the online hotel booking sites make a similar commission, you just never know about it).

      3. I think the discount expires after some period of time so don’t wait for several months after signing up or you might lose it. Check the Terms and Conditions when you click through the link to verify expiration info.

  19. Glad to see you are still living the good life.
    I bought more stocks in December and it is paying off already!
    I know some people who went to Vietnam recently and they liked it a lot. I expect your family will like also.

  20. Mexico City is our Paris! Have a terrific anniversary. A few recommendations:

    Merkava for great Mediterranean food
    Aladdin for terrific Lebanese food
    Ballaro in Roma Norte (great cafe and bakery)
    Mercado Roma for churros to craft mezcal all under one hipster roof



  21. “Two of the apartments we rented are in high rise luxury condo buildings with rooftop pools (for example).”

    I hear you dude. We also get super spoiled when we’re in SE Asia. Currently renting an Airbnb in a new condo with pool for $440 USD/month. Inflation just doesn’t exist in this part of the world. When we were here in 2015, the price for a bowl of noodles was 40 Baht. Come back 3 years later, it’s STILL 40 Baht. Oh SE Asia, how I love you so!

    So sad that we’ll be missing each other this time (I think we’re flying back to Europe right as you guys are heading here). Oh well. Maybe we’ll see each other in some other part of the world.

    Congrats on another great month!

    1. Nice and cheap! Awesome! We’re in Mexico at the moment and living up some crazy good values down here right now! Yes, hate we’ll miss you but perhaps some other day on some other continent. 🙂

  22. Justin, you all are truly amazing. Still don’t know how you get everything so cheap. It’s incredible.

    Have you done an Alaskan cruise? We’re thinking about doing one this summer and I wondered if there are any travel hacks you use for cruising that might work there?

  23. Justin – I’m sure you didn’t mean that *you* sold your United Club passes. Selling them violates United Airlines’ rules and could result in the passes not being honored and United closing your frequent flyer account. Giving away is fine. You were probably just determining their value, right?

    The chances of getting caught selling are low but United apparently does at least randomly track down sellers and punish them. (Google it.) If one did want to sell passes doing it on a neighborhood site like Nextdoor or directly to acquaintances is less visible and safer.

  24. I was not aware you could sell United club passes from the chase explorer card. Good to know, I’ll be opening an eBay account or post them on Craigslist to try and sell! Did you just print them and mail them or did you deliver them digitally to the buyer like through email?

    1. As someone pointed out, it’s a violation of United’s terms of service to sell the United Club passes so this is all hypothetical 😉

      I’ve bought and sold similar types of passes on ebay and always do the electronic delivery. Once the sale completes you can get the email address of the buyer and email them pdfs of passes, coupons, e-gift cards, etc.

  25. It’s nice to see the equity market bounce back in January. That’s a nice increase in your net worth for the month. I would like short term market volatility to not affect my mood given I am a long term investor. But I do find myself slightly happier if the stock market goes up and slightly more down when the stock market goes into bear market territory.

    1. It is more fun to watch the big upward-bound numbers instead of the ugly red declining numbers isn’t it? Though if you’re still accumulating shares, you should be happy when the market drops because of the cheaper entry point for new share acquisition!

  26. Thanks for the candid breakdown of income and expenses. I’m surprised that you don’t do more consulting, given how much interest there seems to be in FIRE? Is that a conscious choice or is the demand not there for FIRE consulting? I would be interested to hear — I do career consulting and I feel like this market is very good for consulting around “what to do” because the market (job and investments) is volatile and confusing for a lot of people.
    Also interesting is the mix of expenses. I think it’s great that you spend a significant chunk on travel. Go experiences! We plan to prioritize travel now that our youngest goes off to college this fall and we have more flexibility.

    1. It’s a conscious choice to keep the time I spend on consulting to a minimum. I keep my hourly rates pretty high since I don’t want to do more than a few sessions per month max. I think I’ve found a sweet spot right now. I never really intended to get into the consulting business but after receiving a dozen requests from readers who wanted to pay me to bounce ideas off of me, I finally formalized a consulting arrangement to handle those kind of requests. Over 100 clients later, I’d say it turned out pretty well for something I never advertise or promote (other than a brief mention in these monthly financial updates).

  27. Is there a good recipe for that Laotian soup? Or a good site for Laotian/Cambodian food in general? I usually just try to Google it, but feel like it’s hard to nail down which site has the authentic recipe!

  28. You wrote “Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, totaled $2,862 for the month of January. I’m expecting a lower revenue month in February and March.”

    Sizeable income just from blogging. I have enjoyed reading and learning from your site over a year. Just curious how do you generate such high income from writing blog? It counts a big portion of your monthly expenses. You don’t even have to touch your big savings/investment. I am planning to retire soon (late fifty in my age).

  29. Your spending level is amazing to me liv9ng as I do in a high cost area. We will be doing the Geoarbitrage thing at some point in the future. I hope you all continue to do well in the future. Have you considered trying to monetize any of your other hobbies to help out? That is something I am considering. The idea to me is that it would help fund my hobbies, and make them cheaper for me.

  30. We’ll continue to agree to disagree on Costco (https://www.frugalprofessor.com/aldi-vs-costco-vs-walmart/).

    Regarding credit card rewards, here’s my setup. I like it a lot. I suspect you’d benefit from it when you’re not pumping-and-dumping for rewards bonuses.

    Enjoy the travels. You are an inspiration!

    1. Interesting that Costco was the price winner on many items you compared since I recall my Costco lost in every category though I only compared a limited range of items. My biggest gripe comes down to quantities. I like the 6 ounce bags of spinach (for example) at Aldi because it’s great quality and that’s about the most that I can eat before it starts to go bad or I’m forced to use it up and/or cook it just to get rid of it. If I got the 3 lb tub of fresh spinach from Costco I’d probably toss half in the garbage each week so it’d end up costing even more!

      I would also have to renovate our kitchen to accommodate a larger refrigerator and a deep freeze, and additional pantry space. Which means I’d have to build onto the house to get more floor space. $50,000 just to shop at Costco? Nope 🙂 But as with everything, it makes sense to check out alternatives and see if it works for you in your location. Clearly you’re saving money and/or getting better quality stuff on many items you purchase. I assume prices vary by region, since it was a clean sweep against Costco in Raleigh and I even casually browsed many other items and didn’t see any real steals. And the lines are like 20+ minutes all the time, which even Walmart beats!

      1. Costco is a fad. It makes you spend more in the end and throwing a lot of things in the trash while plenty of people are starving in the underdeveloped world.

        1. I’m getting that impression more and more. I’ve heard a lot of people in the past 1-2 years that have left Costco for several reasons (lack of price competitiveness, membership fee, better options, checkout takes forever).

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