June 2021 Early Retirement Update – USA Road Trip Edition

Here we are turning the page on our calendar to July. We’ve spent most of the last month traveling across the USA from North Carolina to California. As this post goes live, we’ll be waking up not too far from the Pacific Ocean. Soon we will turn back east and head toward home during the month of July. So far, so good, but there were a few hiccups along the way (read on for more details). 

We just finished a one week stay in Las Vegas where we were finally able to relax and sleep late for several days straight. Such a nice break after being on the move for several weeks in a row. The next segment of our trip takes us through California where wildfires are a big concern right now. This is a new risk to us, so I guess we are a little anxious that the wildfires interrupt our plans. 

Financially, we had a good month. Our stock investments went down very slightly but overall June didn’t have a lot of volatility. Net worth dipped by $12,000 to end the month at $2,701,000. Income during the month totaled $10,250, which was significantly higher than our $2,447 spending during the month. 

Let’s jump into the details from last month.

 

Income

Investment income totaled $6,829 in June. Our equity index funds and ETFs pay dividends quarterly at the end of March, June, September, and December. As a result, we had a relatively large amount of investment income last month. Here’s more on our dividend investments.

Blog income totaled $790 for the month which was lower than my average blog income. Part of the reason is that I haven’t been at home to collect and deposit the checks from some advertisers. July will be a much better month once I get back and cash all those checks! But the blog income is also down over the past year or two simply because I’m posting less often. Perhaps once the kids are back in school in the fall, I’ll have more free time to crank out a few extra blog posts in addition to these monthly update posts. I place a high priority on my leisure and recreation pursuits, so it’s a stretch to get in front of a computer and “work” for several hours straight to publish a polished blog post.  

My early retirement lifestyle consulting income (“consulting”) increased to $1,336 for the month of June after a weak result in May. This income represents nine hours of consulting time. Given recent inflation in most of the things we consume right now, I decided to raise my rates again in June to $160 for one hour or $300 for two hours (up $10 and $15 respectively). 

Tradeline sales income was $525 in June. I ramped up my tradeline sales last year and discussed it in a bit more detail in my October 2020 monthly post. The tradeline sales company I use tends to open up their enrollment of new tradeline sellers in the July/August timeframe, so if you are interested in getting in on the action, leave a comment on this post to let me know. I’ll copy your email address that I can see privately from your comment and add you to an email that I’ll send out later with details.

My “deposit income” totaled $388 in June. Of that total, $376 came from a health insurance rebate from my insurer for 2017 and 2018. Under the ACA, health insurance companies have to spend a certain percentage of collected premiums on actual healthcare. When they spend too little, the ACA requires them to rebate the shortfall to the policyholders. A nice little unexpected check for us!

The other $12 in “deposit income” came from cash back and incentive bonuses from the Rakuten.com and Mrrebates.com online shopping portals (some of which was earned from you readers signing up through these links). 

If you sign up for Rakuten through this link and make a qualifying $25 purchase through Rakuten, you’ll get a $10 sign up bonus

My Youtube earnings totaled $381 last month. Here is the channel for the curious. It’s random travel videos, birds, kids, and a couple of DIY videos. Somehow through the magic of the internet hundreds of thousands of people watch the vids and we get paid for it. 

 

 

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.

 

Sunset over the Mississippi as we looked out over the St. Louis Arch. This was one of those beautiful pitstops along our route out west.

 

 

Expenses

Now let’s take a look at June expenses:


 

In total, we spent $2,447 during June which is about $900 less than our regularly budgeted $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year). Travel and taxes were the top two spending categories for the month. 

 

Detailed breakdown of spending:

 

Travel – $1,679:

We’ve been traveling for most of June and have spent $1,679 through the end of the month on travel expenses. I am including the groceries and restaurants we have enjoyed along the way in addition to gas, hotels, parking fees, souvenirs, and admission tickets. 

A rough breakdown of the travel spending for the month of June:

  • Hotels – $665
  • Gas – $435
  • Groceries and supplies – $350
  • Restaurants – $150 (plus another $75 worth of restaurant gift cards bought in the past)
  • Souvenirs – $50
  • Parking and admission fees – $29

Lodging was the biggest expense at $665. On top of that, we spent another $1,600 in the previous couple of months on airbnb stays and prepaid hotel bookings. We also booked 18 nights in hotels for free throughout our whole trip using 243,500 hotel points spread across the Choice Privileges, Marriott, Hilton, and Wyndham loyalty programs. 

If you want to get in on the travel hacking points and miles game, and you have a small business you can get $750+ in cash back bonus or travel with a new Chase Ink business card. No business? You can still get a Chase Freedom personal card with $200 in cash back when you spend $500

Gas has been pretty much in line with what I was thinking except it’s getting much more expensive in the western states. We’ll only be in California for about a week and that seems to be the worst of the gas prices. 

As far as groceries and restaurants, we’ll go out to eat or get take out/fast food when it’s convenient. And we’ll buy groceries when we are in one place for a few days or more. We’ve also been buying picnic supplies so we can enjoy a leisurely meal in the national parks.

 

Sometimes eating local food is the destination. Like this local Kansas City barbeque we enjoyed. “Burnt ends”, smoked brisket, and pulled pork (counterclockwise from bottom left).

 

The alternative is relying on the outsourced in-park dining choices that come with erratic schedules, high prices, variable quality, and sometimes very long lines and limited supplies.

As we sat on a bench in the shade enjoying our ham and turkey sandwiches in Zion National Park, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on the family sitting on the bench next to me. The father had waited in line for an hour to get some sandwiches and a few slices of pizza. Except they ran out of pizza so he had to go back 20 minutes later to pick up his pizza order! 

Our homemade sandwiches, apple slices, and chips were really good and we got to enjoy a nice calm, convenient lunch with a beautiful view of the mountains in Zion National Park. 

As far as other expenses, they have been very minimal. We have a fourth grader, so we got the free National Park Pass that all fourth graders can get. It covers our whole family’s entry fees to all the national parks across the country! Other than national parks, we’ve mostly done free things like hikes, picnics, and free self-guided tours and museums. We did pay $10 to park at Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona. And we paid a $19 admission fee at Box Canyon in Ouray, Colorado. 

 

We got to play in the snow in the middle of June at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado!

 

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. We set out on a pretty strenuous hike at elevations over 9,000 feet. After a couple of miles of steep terrain we decided to call it a day and head back to the van for some rest. That altitude is no joke!

 

Taxes – $300:

State of North Carolina estimated taxes for the second quarter were $300. We pay about $1,200 per year in total. 

 

Utilities – $260:

We paid $129 for the water/sewer/trash bill. Our electricity bill was $108 for the month. The natural gas bill, which covers our hot water, was $24 in June. The bills lag by a month so they should all be much lower in July because we’ve been gone most of June. 

 

Clothing/Shoes – $68:

Some last-minute clothes shopping before we left on our big summer trip totaled $68. 

 

General Merchandise – $40:

During the Amazon Prime Day promotion, I bought a $40 Amazon gift card that came with a free $10 promotional gift card. I don’t know what I’ll spend the $40 Amazon gift card on, but we spend enough at Amazon to make good use of it. 

 

Gas – $39:

I refueled in Raleigh in very early June before we left on our trip. I suppose we used most of the gas while on our road trip but I also assume I’ll return home in late July with a mostly full tank. 

We spent another $435 on gas while driving about 3,700 miles on our road trip. I have included the $435 road trip gas spending in the “travel” category of expenses. 

 

A lot of the trip revolved around scenic drives, like this one along the Million Dollar Highway (US 522) in southern Colorado.

 

Automotive – $33:

One of the “oh no!” moments on our trip happened when something small and hard smashed into our windshield while on the interstate somewhere in Indiana or Illinois. I’m not really sure what it was but it left a 1.25 inch wide crack in the windshield.

I contacted a couple of glass repair companies in St. Louis where we were spending the night to no avail. One place didn’t repair chips and cracks at all. The other was booked solid for the next week due to a recent hailstorm destroying a ton of windshields.

As a result, I turned to youtube and DIY windshield repair videos. After polling my friends, many told me it was pretty simple to repair small cracks with a cheap kit from Walmart or the auto parts store. I found two kits at the local auto parts place just a few minutes from my hotel. We were fortunate to have a very light travel day of about four hours of driving, so I had plenty of time to fix the windshield myself in the morning.

I requested a late checkout of 1 pm and got to work in the shade cast by the hotel. A couple hours later after several periods of sitting and waiting, the crack looked a lot better but not flawless. 

2,000 miles later, the crack hasn’t expanded any so I think my repair job was “good enough”. The total cost for the two repair kits was $33. I had to buy two kits because there were two impact marks close together. I wanted to inject the epoxy into each impact mark to hopefully increase the odds that I would get the epoxy into all the cracks. 

I was ready to drop $150-180 for a professional crack repair but once I hit a roadblock of getting an immediate appointment, I decided to hedge my risk and DIY it so I could guarantee it would get done quickly. Otherwise I might have spent all morning calling different auto glass repair shops instead of actually fixing the problem. 

Let’s hope that’s the most “exciting” thing that happens on our whole trip! 

 

Groceries – $30:

Before we left on our trip, we spent $30 on groceries in Raleigh. We spent more in previous months to stock up for our road trip. It’s nice to have some non-perishable staples in the minivan so that we can make a quick meal after a long day if we aren’t near any restaurants or grocery stores. 

 

Our non-perishable supply boxes. Spaghetti-O’s, ramen, mi goreng, instant pho noodles, tom yum soup, applesauce, canned fruit, canned tamales, canned chicken breast, peanut butter, various crackers and cereals. We supplemented these foods along the way with fresh and frozen veggies, meats, and lots of fresh fruits. 

 

Healthcare/Medical/Dental – $0:

Our current 2021 healthcare premiums are $1 per month thanks to very generous Affordable Care Act subsidies that we receive due to our low ~$45,000 per year Adjusted Gross Income. The benefit of being “poor” on our tax return. 

The “American Rescue Plan Act” passed in March 2021 makes the Affordable Care Act premiums even cheaper through 2022. Households with modified adjusted gross incomes (MAGI) below 150% of the federal poverty level get some silver-level health insurance plans completely free. We opted for a slightly more expensive silver plan that comes with $1,000 in cash back incentive rewards. Our total cost is just over $1 per month now! 

In May, we prepaid the health insurance for the entire summer which totaled $5. As a result, there is no medical spending in June. 

 

Cable/Satellite – $0:

We generally pay $18 per month for a local reduced rate package due to having a lower income and having kids. 30 mbit/s download, 4 mbit/s upload. Right now the cost of the internet service is temporarily reduced to $0 due to the “Emergency Broadband Benefit”. 

 

The first few days of the road trip included virtual schooling for our youngest kid while on the road (sometimes literally on the road logging in through a mobile wifi device). The older kids had already completed high school classes by the time we left home.

 

 

Total Spending for 2021 – Year to Date

 

Our spending totaled $12,323 for the first half of the year. This is over $7,000 less than the $20,000 we budgeted for six months of spending in our $40,000 annual early retirement budget.

We are on track to finish the year well under our $40,000 year budget. However we’ll have a good bit of spending coming up. While on our road trip, we still have three weeks worth of dining and 3,500+ miles worth of gas. As far as future travel spending, we have prepaid for our October cruise but we still owe $1,400 for our family cruise over Christmas. And now that everything is basically open, we might do some more traveling in the fall! 

In the intermediate term over the next 6 to 24 months, we’ll have to buy a second car and start paying for college. Used car prices are way up! However, it’s looking like college bills won’t be so bad due to a combo of financial aid and kids doing AP classes, college transfer classes, and community college for a year before university. Some more thoughts on college spending here

 

The Grand Canyon!

 

Monthly Expense Summary for 2021:

 

Summary of annual spending from all years of early retirement:

 

Cooling off in the shade during a 105F degree day at Hoover Dam.

 

Net Worth: $2,701,000 (-$12,000)

After who knows how many consecutive months of net worth increases, we finally hit a bump in the road! I’m okay with that. My index funds can’t go up forever! 

Our net worth dropped by $12,000 to end the month at $2,701,000. Even after inflation, we are up roughly a million dollars from when I quit working eight years ago! 

 

 

Speaking of inflation, I’ve never really noticed it until this summer road trip. In general, inflation during my adult lifetime has been so mild that it’s hard to spot. Mostly 2% per year give or take a percent. Nobody notices when a $2 item is $2.04 the next year (or more likely, they shrink the item by 3% and make 1% more profit!). 

But while booking the road trip, we were watching hotel prices increase almost daily. Fortunately we booked lodging early enough to avoid the worst of the price spikes. Rental cars had even more inflation (but we drove our own van so we avoided that cost!). Now that we are out west, everything seems more expensive. Perhaps it’s just because everything is more expensive out here in general. I guess we’ll see when we get back home to Raleigh in a month. 

Fortunately for us, our 90% equities allocation should do a pretty good job of keeping up with inflation if it continues unabated. Most of the goods and services sold by the companies in our index funds have gone up in price, which means they should be able to increase their profits accordingly. More profits, higher share prices, right? At least in the long term! 

 

Breath-taking views in Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)

 

Our daughter the official cell phone photographer. The Pixel 3 is a great budget choice for nice cell phone pics!

 

 

Life update

Right now we are a month into our grand adventure across the USA. We’re only getting a glimpse into the beauty and splendor that the western half of our country has to offer. If only we had more time! 

The truth is that this is a bit of a whirlwind trip. And that is by design. We want to cover a lot of territory and see a lot of things. That necessarily means we aren’t able to see everything at every National Park we visit. But we can always come back later and spend more time diving deep into those areas that are particularly notable. 

 

Visiting with our recently FIRE-d friends in Denver, Colorado.

 

Even though we are traveling at a fast pace, we are fortunate that our youngest kid is nine years old and the other two kids are teenagers. They’re veteran travelers by now, each having spent close to a year on the road in total during our various journeys across the world. We are all pretty good at packing, unpacking, settling in, then packing up again and moving on to the next hotel, cabin, or airbnb.

And we have our car. This makes it much less stressful to travel to a new city every day or two compared to taking planes or trains with a fixed ticket time. When driving our own car, we can leave an hour or two later than we intended and we get to our destination an hour or two later (or we shorten some sightseeing along the way to make up time). However, if you get to the airport or train station an hour or two after your plane or train leaves, you won’t have a very good day.

We’ve also programmed in many “do nothing days” throughout the trip where we have a very light schedule or literally have nothing planned at all. We just enjoyed two “do nothing” days in Las Vegas because we had already seen everything we wanted to see.

 

We kept our schedule pretty light some days. In Page, Arizona, we rested all day then went out in the evening to do some exploring of The Chains lake overlook after the sun started to get low in the sky. Less intense heat and thinner crowds. We had this park all to ourselves. 

 

What a luxury to have all summer to travel and be able to “do nothing” and relax! 

See you next month when we’re back in Raleigh! 

 

How’s the summer going so far? Is it getting hot where you are?

 

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101 comments

  1. The qualifying criteria for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program is:

    Government Assistance Programs, including SNAP (food stamps), SSI, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Veterans Pension or Survivors Benefit Programs, Federal Pell Grant recipient, Free and Reduced school lunch programs or a member of a Native American tribe living on Reserved lands

    OR

    Qualify through income which must be below $41,904 for a family of 5 (135% of 2021 federal poverty level)

    OR

    Experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers.

    Do you really qualify for this program? If so, can you please kindly explain how?

    Do you really need this program?

    1. Really like your blog. Informative, entertaining, and inspiring. You might want to dig into tradeline sales a little further though. I understand the $/hour incentive. Good compensation for very little work. The main risk you outline in your old post is that a credit card company could close your card if they realize what you’re doing. But there are other risks, such as:

      -You may be helping a scam artist legitimize a fake/synthetic identity
      -Your identity and address may be linked to fraudsters and fraud rings
      -You open yourself up to being scammed by a credit repair company, so you better choose a “good” one

      So I would just caution anyone who’s considering tradeline sales to be aware of these risks. A good write-up of the pitfalls of tradeline sales can be found below.

      https://frankonfraud.com/fraud-trends/5-reasons-why-you-should-never-sell-your-tradelines/

      1. Hey man, wasn’t trying to censor you. I’ve approved your several posts on the issue as far as I can tell. Over here on Pacific Coast time on vacation and waking up late so it’s afternoon East Coast Time when I approved 🙂

        You raise good points to consider for anyone looking at tradeline sales. I’ve evaluated the risks and use a more reputable company that doesn’t net me the highest fees but has good screening of clients to avoid the fraudsters (still a risk though). This company also follows some good industry practices to limit risk of shutdowns (longer add time, fewer adds at any given time). My biggest concern is shut down of my credit cards but given the benefits I’m okay with that risk as there are a lot of issuers out there that would love to extend credit to me.

        There are shady tradeline companies out there but I don’t think I’m doing business with one of them.

        As always, I encourage my readers to understand the risk/reward of any given business transaction and only engage in activities that have a positive expected outcome after factoring in the risk involved.

        1. Thanks man. Sorry I wasn’t sure what was happening.

          But definitely appreciate your transparency and encouraging folks to do their own research. Keep up the good work with the blog and hope you’re enjoying the vacay.

    2. I believe, from prior posts, they meet the income threshold.

      As far as needing it, I don’t see that to be a reasonable question.

      Do some people need social security? No, but people don’t turn it down. You could make a list of thousands of social programs that people don’t really need, but utilize.

      If it is there and available, why not take advantage?

      1. The program has a limited amount of funds and he may be preventing others who need it more than him. This is a “need-based” program so need is a reasonable question indeed.
        Some people have been denied this program with far less than he has.

        I knew ROG ultra-fans would come out of the woodwork on this question to defend him no matter what instead of letting him speak for himself!

        1. Tell you what. Why don’t you open up your financial life to all RoG’s readers so we can pick apart every single program that YOU take advantage of. After all, every program ever implemented has limited resources to some level, and you might be taking $ away from someone “more deserving” than you.

          RoG has answered these kinds of baited questions before. He didn’t write the rules but he will take advantage of those that have been written, if it is in his and his family’s best interest. And if they tighten up the restrictions on this particular program, or the medical coverage program they take advantage of, he and the family will change accordingly. If you don’t like the way the laws are written then take it up with your state and national politicians. They are the ones who write and codify them into law, not RoG.

          1. My question is entirely legitimate and is NOT baiting at all and you ROG fanboys need to stop interfering. I genuinely want to learn how ROG qualifies for these programs.

            1. Why are you curious if you think these programs are a waste of time and not worthwhile for someone of my financial standing to pursue?

              FYI I don’t trifle with complicated programs. Always a time vs money question and if it’s not worth the time to save $ then I obviously don’t do it.

              Also FYI, many of the government freebies are no longer tied to assets, just income. That’s how they have intentionally set up the programs and I agree it disproportionately benefits the early retirees.

    3. We qualify on several metrics. Main point is you qualify for other programs you’ve referenced in your copy/paste if your income is <185% of federal poverty level and ours is $45k-ish most years (185% FPL for fam of 5 is ~$55k as I recall).

      Do I "need" this program? I would change the program to eliminate these benefits to people like me if I could. For example, use the EITC's unearned income disqualifier provision to deny people in my situation from these benefits. But I am not in Congress so I have very little input into our nation's administration. But as the program stands, I qualify, so I receive them.

      1. Thanks for your response. Certainly, there’s a lot more fun to be had with $2.7M in the bank than applying for penny-anny government subsidies. I can’t imagine you don’t have better things to do than fill out forms, send in info, go through a phone tree and wait on hold as you get transferred around. I would never bother with these programs if I didn’t need them but qualified anyway. Different strokes for different folks I guess.

        1. It’s 2021 and that’s not how these systems work. Click a few buttons and everything is automated. Basically like ordering a pizza online. Filing taxes, for example, is 100x more complex.

          1. Not at all Justin. Many people need to mail in documents and gather supporting information. When they follow-up due to no response they get assigned a case that can take several weeks. On hold wait times, etc. can be very long. Having to re-credentialize yourself to everyone you talk to is a pain and you’ll get a different answer depending on who you talk to.

    4. They probably qualify under reduced lunch which is 185% of FPL or $58k for a family of 5.
      If the government wanted to prevent people with high assets and low income, they could easily copy and paste one of the asset based means testing that they use on many other programs but they chose not to

    5. Hi Justin, been reading your blog for years now. Love it and love the updates, and love seeing the kiddos grow! I am interested in selling tradelines too. Could you send me a bit more information? Thanks! -Sam in California

  2. Uh, there is no way that youtube channel is making that income, maybe 1/100th of that, there are almost no views at all. Makes you think.

    1. Check the other vids 🙂 There are a few with a lot of views. 1M+ on at least one as I recall.

      Also, why would I go to the trouble of lying about my youtube revenue?? It’s chump change compared to my other revenue streams (mainly passive income from index funds).

  3. Glad to hear the windshield is holding up! Never fun to have any kind of car issues when you’re away from home.

    I’m interested in the tradelines you mentioned, if you can include me on that email – that would be great.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip – what a great family experience!

  4. Outstanding trip, one the kids (and adults) will remember for a long, long time. You are hitting a lot of my stomping grounds in the 1970s when I lived most of the decade in Boulder. Rocky Mtn National is one of my favorite national parks to this day. You guys are forced due to the younger ones to travel during the high season so you will see higher temps, higher prices, and gouging on the gasoline front. But your frugalness as a family will overcome most of those obstacles.

    I can’t remember your trip details but if you find yourselves cutting across TN on I-40 (who doesn’t when they are traveling E to W or W to E in the country) let me know and we’ll meet up, or you guys can stop here for a night or so. Our small town of Crossville will also have another major tourist attraction in the future that you and the kids might like. They just officially broke ground for the newest Buc-ees location that will be just on the outskirts of town, right off I-40. If you aren’t aware of that chain check them out; started in TX. It should be done either later this year or early next I would imagine.

    Best wishes for a continued safe journey to you and the family.

    1. We somehow managed to avoid Tennessee on this trip (not on purpose though). Google Maps and free hotels with points led us through the WV mountains to Kentucky and we headed west from there. Coming back through Dayton so we’ll use the same WV mountain pass to get back to Raleigh.

  5. As always, a great monthly post! As a fellow Raleighite, I am happy you and your family are getting to explore the wonderful, wide-open West. Safe travels to you and your family!

    Please share your information via e-mail on Tradeline sales as I am very interested.

  6. Sounds like an incredible trip so far! I’m really enjoying the pictures posted and looking forward to hitting up some of these places on future trips (especially Rocky Mtn NP). We’re heading up to Bryce & Zion in a few weeks – I haven’t been since I was only slightly older than your youngest, so really looking forward to it.

    You’re showing a lot of folks that assume travel has to be expensive, how much value and enjoyment they can really get for such a small amount of money and I think that’s wonderful. Safe travels back to NC and enjoy the rest of your trip.

    1. Good luck on Zion! It was mostly a bust for us. Incredibly packed and not particularly enjoyable. Pretty scenery though. Especially on the drive just east of the park (nice views if you head out that way toward Bryce!). And no crowds on the drive east compared to inside Zion proper. Bryce was much more enjoyable and cooler weather too. And I felt like Bryce had a lot of uniqueness to it that we didn’t see elsewhere in the western National Parks.

      1. Zion Canyon is a hellscape. They should never have put a road through it- a travesty.

        Hiking the Narrows, canyoneering, and the Subway (even if it’s crowded) are where Zion shines.

        I never understand Bryce- it’s tiny and there’s not much to do, although the stars are great.

        1. I really liked the uniqueness of Bryce and the bright coloring but yeah it does seem smallish. If I wasn’t tired from 2 straight weeks of national park hustling I think I’d like to do the hike down between the fins and back up. But it was 800 ft elevation gain (on the way back up of course!) so I decided it wasn’t for me that day. Perhaps later if I’m ever in middle-of-nowhere I can make it happen. 🙂 There were a few other trails that looked interesting but we didn’t end up doing a ton of hiking (just the rim trail for a bit).

  7. I hope you do a travel post eventually. We would like to go out west. It would be very interesting to read your indepth reviews of places.

    I have recently discovered that we possibly have enough to retire on. However, when I am figuring out my monthly expenses, I don’t include things that are considered “once or twice in a lifetime” like carpet for the house or burial plots. Should I be including those too because once we retire we will possibly have similar very rare expenses?

    1. Yes, I’d say explicitly budget for the “1 time” expenses. Could be as simple as saying $X thousand per year to cover it all. And then just spend within your means. Get the nice carpet/flooring if portfolio is up or get the cheap stuff if you’re broke and don’t want to work. We got high end flooring for kitchen and dining room bc the portfolio is WAY up! 🙂

      1. Thank you for your response on vacation. 🙂
        I meant we recently put carpet in our house as well as bought burial plots so I deducted them from my expenses for the year of 2021. I want to average my monthly expenses for the future when we retire. Should I keep them in or out? As we may be having something similar (as in very rare type of expense) in retirement. I consider both to be lower than average, for instance two burial plots were $950 total. Maybe it’s not that big of a deal. It just looks nice on paper to have approximately $1,700 a month for expenses. 🙂

        1. I’d leave some “fat” in the budget for one time expenses. Maybe exclude the 1x burial plots and carpet but then add back in a certain amount per year for future one time expenses. House, car, dental stuff, health, lawyer, etc. Lots of stuff that comes up over the decades that you’ll end up paying for just 1-2x during the rest of your life.

  8. Rocky Mountain National Park and Red Rocks Amphitheater. I have been there many times. I hope you enjoyed them.

    1. Red Rocks was a little underwhelming to be honest. Pretty but way too packed to really enjoy. Rocky Mtn NP was great though. Capacity constraints on entrance so we were able to find parking everywhere and not get stuck in traffic.

  9. Regarding your cracked windshield, do you have any sort of insurance that will pay to have your windshield fixed? Maybe your collision car insurance? Often collision insurance will pay to have a windshield crack fixed and waive the deductible.

  10. I did the DIY windshield fix a few years ago. The crack wasn’t in a dangerous place and I just wanted to save some money. It worked well.

    We have two years of 4th grade coming up next summer, so we’ll probably hit a lot of parks then.

    Thanks for sharing your list of travel foods.

    1. Fortunately our crack is in the lower part of passenger side so it’s not really visible except peripherally. Hopefully it holds till we get rid of the car!

  11. Hey, I am interested in the tradelines info. I’ve contacted the two companies in the famous reddit thread and I was underwhelmed. Also contacted a third company which seemed more responsive (professional) but still haven’t tried it. Looks like they give you around 30/40% of the sale. Looks like the tradelines industry is ready for some disruption.
    Oh I see you were in Page, the Antelope Canyon just opened back maybe you can catch it on the way back. But you definitely have to book in advance

    1. I maybe be using one of the 2 “good ones” from the reddit thread. I’m not familiar with the reddit thread though. Only the mega MMM thread on tradeline sales (and I’m using one of those 2).

      We’re in California right now and headed back east soon. But going the northern route through Montana and Wyoming on the way home so we’ll miss Antelope Canyon completely. Saw some cool stuff while we were there though!

      1. My mistake, I meant the MMM thread. One of those two good ones never replied to me, the other did but it looked like maybe they had all the credit lines they needed.
        Yeah, the West is pretty cool, with an unlimited supply of great sightseeing.
        Safe travels

        1. Ok, then you’ve contacted both of the “good” ones that I know of that screen authorized users well. The non-responsive one – they saved you a headache by ignoring you. Not worth dealing with them as they don’t respond to me either and I left them behind! The other one is in fact full up (they’re the good one). But they open up in the late summer/fall.

  12. I’ll say this about tradeline sales: think very carefully before doing this. Your previous blog post only mentioned one real risk to engaging in this practice. That is, if your credit card company realizes what you’re doing, there’s a decent chance they’ll close your card (and probably flag you from getting a future card with their company in the future).

    But there is also the very real risk of fraud. When you engage in tradeline sales, you’re giving your good credit to someone else. But it’s not always to a good honest, person who’s trying to build their credit. It’s often for a scammer who is building up a fake/synthetic identity, growing their credit score to appear more legitimate to other lenders in the future. When this happens, your address will be forever linked to the scammer you authorized the tradeline for.

    Not only will you likely enable scammers to profit off of your good credit, but you may open up yourself to identity theft if you deal with a shady tradeline sale “broker,” – that is the company who will give you leads and tell you who to add as an authorized user on your account.

    Long story short, really consider if some extra money each month is worth the very real risk of fraud, as well as having your card permanently closed.

  13. Thanks for the update! We looked at used cars before we bought a Golf on Monday and decided to just go new. The only proportional real difference in price was the destination charge, and to us it was worth it to make sure we didn’t get something worn out.

    Tradeline sounds interesting and my credit score is solid — I’d be interested in more information.

    I’ve been on a Pixel 3 since late 2018 and battery life notwithstanding it’s been a fantastic phone. The camera must be witchcraft or something. I haven’t used my old Nikon dSLR in years.

    Enjoy the back half of your trip! I hope the weather and conditions treat y’all well.

    1. We bought the pixel 3 in basically new condition. 89% battery life vs brand new based on pulling the manual battery charge using developer toolkit. Still pretty decent for picture taking when we turn off the cell/wifi antenna (not an issue when in national parks with no signal anyway!).

      I hear you on the new vs used. I imagine it’s a wonky set of prices out there so buying new might make sense depending on your needs. And price differential per-year if you keep for a while won’t be wildly different.

  14. Oh boy. your groceries as SODIUM packed. Be careful or your family will be on high blood pressure medication soon.

    1. Not too much of an issue in the southwest USA during summer when we are sweating like crazy and outdoors most days. Need more sodium to help balance electrolyte levels and avoid dehydration!

  15. Well, I’ve tried commenting multiple times to express my concerns with ROG’s recommendation for tradeline sales. Apparently that type of opinion is not allowed so I’d be surprised if this redacted version makes the cut either but…

    I strongly encourage anyone to research long and hard before jumping into tradeline sales. You may open yourself up to fraud and/or enable other bad actors committing synthetic ID fraud to build up “their” credit by piggybacking on yours. Not to mention your credit card will be permanently closed once your CC company figures out what you’re doing. Steer clear.

  16. So glad to see your largest spending catagory is Travel! Before the pandemic that was often the case, but not in the past 15 or so months. Another sign the world is getting back to normal.

    1. Feels very normal-ish out here but I think there will be some level of fear (sometimes legitimate!) and concern over the next 1-2 years globally. My biggest concern is the risk of newly emerging variants that are worse than current variants and/or largely bypass vax or past-infection immunity. Then we have covid v2.0 pandemic :/

    1. I’ll admit that I was skeptical. I got a couple cans on a whim just to try it. It is shockingly good. I’ve had a wide variety of hecho a mano tamales of various types all over Mexico and I’ve had some that were about the same as these canned tamales. Which is surprising! They won’t win awards and tu abuela might not approve but they’re good enough when you’re 20 miles from the nearest restaurant that’s open at 9 pm on a Sunday night. The biggest downside is the sauce is rather thin vs. the usual hecho en Mexico enchilada sauce I buy at home (which comes from Dollar Tree 🙂 ).

  17. Looks like your summer vacation is going great! Good to see you guys out West. There’s lots to see and do out here.

    Congrats on the nice monthly income and low spending!

  18. Can you tell me more about your mobile WiFi device. How much it is, how well it works, etc. We take a lot of road trips and were thinking about getting one of these. Thanks!

    1. We got it free from T-mobile and service is free for 5 years. 100 GB per year, resets annually. Some pandemic related program for families with kids to maintain internet for education (can’t recall details of program name). It works well enough, especially on the east coast and midwest along the interstates which is where we used it the most while in the car to get a good data connection for our kid’s schooling.

      I can’t really comment much on the economics of it vs getting unlimited data or a big fat 10GB monthly data allotment on your regular cell plan. I guess it depends on what you need it for. I’ve been using google maps, some light surfing, and research while on the road on mobile data and have only used a couple GB per month. And my regular phone works well enough as a hotspot occasionally if I need it.

      We did use the hotspot once for a day when we got to an airbnb and the host’s internet was totally busted. Just turned on the mobile hotspot, stuck it by a window to get good cellular reception and we could all connect inside the basement apartment to the wifi device. Not super fast speeds but plenty good to research our sightseeing for the next day, catch up on emails, social media, etc.

      1. Thank you! We have Mint Mobile so not unlimited data. We are usually near WiFi except on road trips. Free sounds good, but I’m sure that program is over. I’ll look into the cost. Thanks.

  19. Sounds like a fun road trip, we did a 3,500 mile one ourselves this year. But a little easier for us since our kids are grown and gone. And the altitude is indeed tough on flat landers like us, we live 200 feet above sea level in Arkansas. A few years ago we trekked up a 14,000 ft peak in Colorado the day we arrived, no acclimation at all. We did it but it felt like we were going to die on that seven mile hike/climb. I think it was the only time I’ve seen my wife tap out on a hike, but she did get to the top. I have a lot of experience with cracked windshields and windshield repairs, unfortunately. I just got one replaced for under $300. I would not recommend doing a repair that cost nearly as much as a new one, except if you do it yourself, like you did. My experience with repairs is they are $50 at the most, usually half that. Also a crack that large often will hold for awhile when glued but long term it probably will grow clear across your windshield the first time it sees an extreme temperature change, like rain on a hot day or a cold snap next fall. But maybe you’ll be luckier than me!

  20. Interested in your tradeline company. I only have a few cards and relatively low account ages so I won’t be doing it for several years. But I like to keep up with which companies are reputable.

  21. Hi Justin – Great post. The trip sounds like a blast.

    I would like to be included in the email about tradeline sales please.

    Does selling tradelines have an impact on 5/24 and new card sign ups? I seem to remember reading that authorized users can impact 5/24, but it is not something that I have ever had to deal with – Thanks!

    1. Adding an AU doesn’t impact YOUR 5/24 status but it will impact the AU’s 5/24 status bc it acts like a new credit card they were approved for.

      However if you do sign up for new credit cards just to get extra cards to sell tradelines on, then those new cards of yours will count against your 5/24 status.

  22. Hi,

    Thanks for the update! I would like to travel west with kids as well, what advise can you share such as best scenic route and destinations.

    Thanks,
    Hamid

    1. Depends on your interests and what the kids would enjoy and how old they are. And how adventurous they are. Hiking and outdoors stuff is a lot of work if your kids aren’t used to walking a lot. National Parks are great. I liked all the ones we visited other than Zion which I would be tempted to skip. Biggest advice is don’t travel too fast because you and your kids will get worn out. I’ll try to post more about what we did, routes, favorites, etc in a separate post later.

  23. Sounds like another great month in the books. Enjoy your trip!

    I’d be interested in your tradeline sales info.

    Thanks

  24. Hello Justin,

    Can you send an email with information about the tradeline?

    Just returned this past Saturday (07/10/2021) from San Francisco after a week there. Never again going back, and I wish we went to Bermuda (never been) or Hawaii again.

    Kevin

  25. Long time reader. Thanks for another awesome post. I’m interested in Tradeline Info. Can you include me too. Thanks

  26. I am curious to see what your tax return looks like. Do you claim the maximum each year in capital gains to step up your basis, so about $80k income then the deductions bring it down to $45k?

    1. I’m guessing he doesn’t have room to do much capital gains stepping up with trying to ACA subsidies. Even though he stepping up capital gains brings no additional income tax, it does raise his AGI which is what is what is used for ACA subsidy purposes. When you factor in the hidden 20-30% marginal tax from the loss of ACA subsidies, its often not worth it to do the capital gains step up in many cases.

      1. That’s pretty much it. Sometimes I have a little room and do some CG harvesting to bump up basis but usually it’s a better use of my limited ACA-bracket space to do Roth conversions.

  27. Looks like an awesome trip! We bring non-perishable foods when we road trip too! I didn’t know there was instant pho until recently! Will have to try the instant mi goreng…didn’t know they had an instant version…I love it =)

    Also been on the fence about tradelines…definitely interested so include me in the e-mail. Thx!

  28. Hi Justin,

    I look forward to your updates each month and just retired at the end of 2020 myself at age 57. I’d like to learn more about your tradeline sales experience.

    Thanks!
    Jeff

  29. I would be interested in how you are comfortable with the SPIC coverage of your investments with such a large sum. In my research, basic SPIC only covers $500k per account per specific account type and excess coverage by some firms has a firm aggregate limit that cannot cover all clients fully. We almost had a full meltdown in 2008 so one cannot argue it cannot happen. But then again, if you don’t spread your money around to 3-5 brokerage firms then you are taking a risk of a financial melt-down on that brokerage firm? I cannot find a firm that fully 100% covers securities, aside from market fluctuation and cash, of a dissolution of a brokerage firm above the $500k per account limit. There are only so many account types you can open unless you have a family whereby you setup a joint account separately with a different child, which I have none.

    1. I guess I don’t think too much about the risk. As it is, I don’t think I have any 1 account with more than 500k in it as its spread around several accounts and several brokerage firms.

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