May 2018 Financial Update – Animals Everywhere!

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

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

On to the details!



Investment income totaled $389 in May.  This is up about $20 over April’s investment income due to higher yields from money market accounts and bond funds.  Our equity mutual funds and ETFs pay dividends quarterly in March, June, September, and December, which means we didn’t see much dividend income in May. Next month will be bigger though! More on our dividend income.

Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, returned to a more normal $2,457 in May after dropping to a very low barely-$1,000 month in April.  Good thing I don’t need this income to fund my early retirement living expenses! I would be freaking out with the volatility month to month and general decline versus 2017 revenue.  I view this stream of revenue as “icing on the cake” so anything over $0 is something unexpected that I never planned on while working.

My early retirement lifestyle consulting income (“consulting”) of $354 was basically the same as April.  This level of income represents three hours of consulting time, or less than one hour per week.  We covered a lot of ground in the consulting sessions conducted during May and I know the clients were pleased with the results!


The FIRE burns hot in these three. The idea of collecting passive income from your assets is appealing to those of all ages.


Deposit income of $225 came from the and online shopping portals (some of which was earned from you readers signing up through these links).  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 May we scored a lot of cash back through those portals from shopping online and from travel bookings.


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 May expenses:

Topping the spending charts for May was the quarterly estimated taxes.  Dental expenses (included in “healthcare” category) represented the second highest expense for the month.  In total, we spent $3,366 during May which is only a tiny bit over our target spending of $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year).  Detailed breakdown of spending:


Taxes – $2,023:

My federal and state estimated tax payment. 2018’s estimated tax payments are due April 15, June 15, September 15, and January 15, 2019.  I’m trying to meet the $7,000 minimum spending requirement on my American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card by the end of June. I realized that I can’t use Amex to pay my state taxes, so I bought Visa gift cards online at Giftcardmall (using an online shopping portal of course!) so that I can pay taxes with those and meet the spending requirements on my Amex.

I also figured out these Visa gift cards are actually Visa debit cards. When paying federal estimated taxes, the fee for using a debit card is a flat fee of approximately $3. However when paying with a credit card, the fee is a variable amount just under 2% of the amount paid. As a result, it’s a lot cheaper to pay the estimated taxes with a Visa debit (gift) card rather than a credit card.  By funneling the tax payment through the visa gift cards, I’m saving a bit on transaction fees while only paying a net fee of $1 per $500 of gift cards purchased (after cash back portal).

There’s a good chance I’m paying too much in estimated taxes. If so, I’ll get a refund of the surplus in March or April after filing my 2018 tax return.


I usually pay almost no taxes. They will be a bit higher this year, but the only egret I have is right here on our lake.


Healthcare/Dental – $533:

Mrs. Root of Good visited the dentist for a routine cleaning and exam. The dentist reported that she needed three fillings. Two of them were replacements of damaged fillings that were many years old.  We pay out of pocket and receive a 10% discount when paying in cash or with a debit card.

The cleaning and exam was about $100 while the fillings totaled just over $400. Fortunately, we budget $500 per year for “unexpected” dental expenses.  “Unexpected” really means dental expenses above the cost of routine cleanings, exams, and x-rays.  While we brush and floss religiously, sometimes teeth get cavities and sometimes old fillings pop off and need to be replaced.  The good news is that we are still about $100 under budget for dental expenses and even more under budget for medical expenses.

$27 of the healthcare spending came from some lab tests for me.

Health insurance premiums don’t show up this month because we prepaid the premiums in January and February for the whole year.  If paid monthly, premiums would be $40 per month thanks to very generous Affordable Care Act subsidies that we receive due to our low ~$40,000 per year Adjusted Gross Income.


Wildlife watching non-stop at our house. Turtles getting some sun!


Automotive – $355:

New tires! When we purchased our used minivan in 2016, I noticed the tires were worn in some spots and would need replacing within a couple of years. Fast forward two years and 11,000 miles later and it’s time.

Last week I noticed severe tire wear and a tiny speck of the white cloth fibers poking through a hole in one of the tires.  This is obviously a major safety concern! Even though the back tires had some useful life left on them, I decided to replace all four tires. I found a really good deal at Discount Tires Direct that included some rebates.

Year to date auto expenses are almost double our budgeted $500 per year in maintenance expenses, but 2016 and 2017 were very lean years in the auto maintenance department.  Averaged over several years we’re still a bit under budget.  Though the year is still young, so perhaps 2018 is the year we’ll be very very wrong with our budgeting skills!  Fingers NOT crossed…


Great Blue Heron spotted on the lake.


Backyard bunny. He lives underneath our neighbor’s tool shed.


Groceries – $226:

A much lower than normal grocery bill for the month.  This drop in grocery spending is due to using up about $150 in gift cards at Aldi and Walmart in May (not included in the $226 of reported spending).   In April I picked up some discounted Aldi gift cards at (sign up through that link and you get $5 off your first purchase).  I paid at Cardcash with my Chase Freedom Card through Paypal for another 5% cash back.

We also implemented our annual pre-summer goal of “eating all the food in the fridge, freezer, and pantry” in preparation for being gone to the Bahamas for a month.  That means we aren’t buying a ton of groceries each week which further suppressed our grocery spending for the month.


Foraging for ripe mulberries. This is the real secret to keeping our grocery costs under control.


Weird east-meets-west combo. Thai papaya salad, somen noodles, and corned beef.


Obligatory monthly pho pic. We used some different noodles this time around.


Mole poblano chicken and rice. Reminds me of all the good food we ate in Mexico!


Fried rice with Brussels sprouts.


Travel – $182:

I bought $200 worth of Airbnb gift cards for $182 at when they offered 5% off site wide in May (plus another 4% discount on airbnb gift cards that is always available).  I’m slowly accumulating Airbnb credit for our summer 2019 trip (destination to be determined).


We didn’t take any big trips this month but we’ve been out and about on our new bikes. This is the greenway a mile from our house.


Insurance – $25:

We have insurance through Farm Bureau Mutual. Our home and auto policies are rather inexpensive but we have to pay $25 per year for “membership” in Farm Bureau.  A small price to pay for high quality, low cost insurance!


Cable/Satellite – $14:

$14.99 per month for 30 mbit/second download speeds and 4 mbit/second upload speeds with no data caps.  We qualify for a special rate package for “low income” households with children.


Home Maintenance – $2:

$2 of gas for the lawn mower.  I was the weirdo that rode my bike to the neighborhood gas station to buy a gallon of gas.


Backyard blossoms! Our mimosa trees are full of bright pink flowers this month.


Mrs. Root of Good’s beautiful hydrangeas


This red shouldered hawk on our back fence is the key player in our cost-free snake and rodent removal system.


Note on Utilities, Gas, and Restaurant expenses:

  • Utilities were prepaid in previous months to generate spending in order to fulfill the terms of sign up bonus offers on credit cards.  We still have several hundred dollars worth of positive balances on our electric and water accounts.
  • Gas – we don’t drive a lot.  Bicycling and walking help a lot with that.  The last time we refueled the car was in March. The low fuel light popped up on May 31, so we’ll have to buy a tank of gas at some point in June.
  • Restaurants – we didn’t go out to eat in May. Rather, we didn’t pay to go out to eat. I picked up some free takeout I scored by using the Chase Pay app on my phone. The promotion offered $10 off any purchase at a local restaurant and Mrs. Root of Good and I split the meal.
Homemade lasagna. Good eats all the time in spite of rarely visiting restaurants.


Mmmm enchiladas smothered in salsa verde with guacamole.


Is there such a thing as too much steak in a steak and cheese sub?


Total Spending in 2018

Throughout the first five months of 2018, we spent $11,701.  That’s $5,000 less than the $16,667 budgeted for five months of our $40,000 early retirement budget.

We are still underspending our budget by a wide margin, which means we can handle some big unexpected expenses later in 2018 without breaking the budget overall.

Looking ahead, we just paid the auto insurance and home insurance in early June, so that will add about $800 to June expenses.  Our vacation to the Bahamas starts in the middle of June. It’s mostly paid for other than groceries, dining out, and the occasional rental car and admission fees when we go sightseeing.  However I don’t foresee huge expenses while in the Bahamas.  The (free) half mile of beach in front of our condo plus the on-site swimming pool are the main attractions for us.


Monthly Expense Summary for 2018:


Summary of annual spending from all years of early retirement:


The kids earned straight A’s last quarter and that means free Krispy Kreme Donuts!  And eventually college scholarships


Net Worth: $2,054,000 (+$21,000)

We are closing in on our all-time high net worth of $2,114,000 from January 2018.  Just $60,000 more to go!  With a $21,000 gain in May, I can definitively state that watching the net worth number trend upwards is way more fun that watching it drop month after month.

So far it seems like 2018’s stock market is mostly going sideways.  This is probably better news for our economy compared to a huge spike in the stock market followed by a severe correction.

In terms of the economy, the United States is doing well. GDP growth remains solid. Unemployment is at record lows.  Although there’s a bunch of noise in the news about all kinds of bad stuff (trade wars, North Korea, the Russia investigation).  Who knows if it will prove to be anything more than noise over the long term?  Not me. But has there ever been a time when we didn’t have a bunch of negative headlines?

At this point of the year, we’re cruising on easy street. We are two weeks away from hopping on a plane for a month in the Bahamas. After we return to Raleigh in mid-July, we have a few (free) summer camps lined up for the kids in July and August, then it’s back to school for them. Looking forward to the next 12 months, we have a week long Christmas cruise to the Caribbean and another week long cruise to the southern Caribbean and Cuba during spring break 2019 (both on MSC Cruises).


We’ll be upgrading our view once we land in the Bahamas.


Take care until next month!


That’s our month in review. How about you? Did you do anything fun in May? Any big financial (or non-financial) plans coming up soon?


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  1. This is awesome! I’m always amazed by the creativity of folks in the FI community. Retiring and not having to touch your nest egg is so powerful. And you guys always seem to keep spending in check, so that’s great!

    Any summer trips planned with the kiddos?

    1. Only summer trip so far is the Bahamas. They have 2 weeks of camp once we get back and another week later in August so we’re pretty booked up most of the summer. In the back of my mind, I’ve been thinking about a little trip somewhere though. We’ll see!

    1. It’s working well so far. Especially for this $7000 min. spend requirement. That’s a tough one to hit within 3 months when you don’t spend a lot of money!

        1. They usually do. I’m getting 1% cash back on them when I buy through giftcardmall so I get $5 back on a $500 purchase. So the net fee is 0.2%. But I’m able to spend on an Amex where I can’t otherwise do that. And with fed taxes, I’m avoiding the 1.9% credit card fee because the debit cards are flat fee, not percentage fee.

  2. Another great month, even with the tire purchase and the dentist! And $226 for groceries!!! (even with the gift cards).
    I have been working hard at reducing our grocery bill , we are also five but my kids are young adults, but nowhere near your spending!
    Thanks for sharing and can’t wait to see pics of the Bahamas.

  3. Another great month, especially impressive since the bulk of your spending is on taxes that you will most likely get back. I love the animal pics! I just got a good one the other day of a baby raccoon in our backyard. We took a trip to Toledo, OH last week and visited the zoo and the science museum there. The science museum was free thanks to our Museum of Science and Industry membership and the zoo was 1/2 off thanks to our membership to our local zoo. We also hit up a nickel arcade and had a blast there. Our hotel was also $0 thanks to Hilton points saved up. I love these low cost mini-vacations!

    1. Sounds like a lot of (cheap) fun! I’ve been looking at the Hilton cards lately but have never really used their points before. Do you get good value out of those points?

      1. My experience in looking at Hilton redemptions is that it’s not a great bang for the buck at Hiltons per se, but looking at the Hampton Inns and other lower tier brands has potential. Of course, it all depends on where the hotel is. With a 70k intro points bonus on one of the Hilton cards that I saw, that could either get you 2 nights at a Hilton (with no free breakfast!!) or about 60 nights at some Hampton Inns. I’ve never truly run the cost per point numbers though as that was before my FI journey.

        1. I feel like almost all the hotel reward programs offer the best bang for the buck at the lowest couple of categories of redemption. Either that or the super luxury super expensive properties that cost a ton in dollars but are a comparatively good value when paying with a huge chunk of points.

          And yeah, those hampton inns are a great value. Especially if it’s a hampton inn and suites that offers the rooms that sleep 5-6 for the regular point cost (otherwise we would need 2 rooms!). Plus you get a good free breakfast and snacks and drinks during the day.

  4. You guys are awesome, and one of the truest examples of FIRE out there. No maximizing your ER consulting or overmonetizing your blog for you! Love it, and the animal pics.

    I don’t understand how you never need to buy shoes or socks or underwear.

    1. We unfortunately haven’t found a way to get around the perpetual need for new shoes, socks, and underwear. Last spring all five of us bought new shoes and the ladies in the house had another round of shoe replacement in February this year. We usually get name brand shoes since they seem to last a lot longer than store brand generics and only cost about two times as much (there’s a cheap shoe store near us and they have free shipping and free in-store returns too – Shoe Dept).

      Socks and underwear are hidden in the Walmart spending, and occasionally get lumped into “groceries” if we’re buying $100 of groceries and only 1-2 clothing items (too lazy to split the expenses out 🙂 ). For example, we just picked up some swimwear from Walmart for the adults for our Bahamas trip and that was $40-ish but I didn’t really split it out of grocery expenses. So the costs are in there but it’s small enough to be “rounding error” to me. We’ll make a big clothes shopping trip in the next week or two for the kids (and I need some new socks too 🙂 ) so you’ll see that next month!

      1. Whew, I thought you FIRE folks had found some magic way to auto-regenerate shoes and underwear while I’m some poor sucker buying new shoes every year. Glad to know you are mere underwear and shoe-buying mortals like the rest of us.

        1. Unfortunately, we’re mere mortals in that regard 🙂 And we wear out the shoes since we’re out and about walking quite a bit (at least 2 miles to/from school every day). I find name brand athletic shoes tend to last 8 months up to a year.

  5. Terrific month! I’m amazed each time how your net worth continues to climb significantly without much effort in terms of external or additional savings / income. That monthly expense detail is also very helpful – and motivational – to show great ways to live well without going beyond your means.

    Thanks again for sharing. – Mike

    1. I bought them online at Discount Tires Direct and they ship all over the country as far as I know. I was fortunate to realize our old tires were about to die during the week of the Discount Tires Direct annual Memorial Day sale where they give good rebates on a full set of tires. That’s the only place I’ve bought tires from in the past 10 years and I can’t find better deals on new tires anywhere, including Costco, TireRack, etc. I’m also lucky because the minivan takes relatively small 16″ tires whereas a lot of larger vehicles take bigger tires that cost even more. I was genuinely surprised the tires were so cheap since I was expecting a big increase vs. the price of tires for our old cars (Accord and Civic). But it was about the same as Accord tires from what I recall.

      1. Is that with mounting and balancing? I bought my last set of tires from the same place for under $200 after rebates but then it cost almost as much to have them put on the car so the total cost was close to yours after labor, taxes and “shop fees”.

        1. After the rebates and cash back portal, I’ll be out of pocket $215 for the tires themselves. I haven’t been to the shop yet for installation but their website says $19/tire plus I’m sure there’s several dollars in taxes, fees, environmental fees, extra small parts required, disposal fees, etc so it will probably be in the $100-120 range. I’ll be surprised if I end up paying over $355 total for the tires (after rebates/cash back) plus the installation.

          But you’re right – installation is expensive vs the tires! That’s why I tend to go for the more expensive longer life tires since the “cost per mile” is cheaper given the high overhead cost of installation. And at Discount tire, the installation fee includes lifetime rotation and balancing so I’ll get hopefully ~6 of those out of the installation price during the life of the tire.

          1. Another great month in the books!
            A while back, I took your advice and got 4 tires, installation and all, for about $380. Not too bad!

            What are your thoughts on replacing tires because of age rather than because of thread wear? We live so close to work that it looks our tires will need to be replaced because of age rather than because of wear. I imagine you have found yourself in a similar situation at some point?

            1. Awesome!

              I think I usually wear out the tires right as I’m approaching the 6-7 year mark. This set of tires might be the first time we don’t since we only put 5-6k/yr on the van even with the occasional road trip to Miami or Canada. I figure you’re probably good to 7-8 years without a huge risk, maybe a bit more if you keep the car in a shaded parking garage or your home garage (heat and sunlight degrade rubber).

  6. All the food always looks so good! How long do you guys spend on cooking it each night? We usually do some kind of meal prep to save on time during the week since it’s so busy, but lately I’ve been craving super fresh food. Oh, the problems of the not-retired-yet haha.

    And oh man, that pho looks so good.

    1. We do what I guess you would call “batch cooking” or intentional leftovers 🙂 Like the pho – we’ll make a couple gallons of the broth which will provide several meals. The first night it takes an hour or two which is mostly watching the pot simmer (Mrs RoG makes it so I’m guessing there). Then the other nights when we have pho, it’s only ~15 minutes of prep to heat up the broth, soak the noodles (1 hr lead time on that), chop up lime, cilantro, green onions, etc, maybe some steak.

      In the fridge right now we have leftover burgers, mole poblano, fried rice, and barbecue so we probably won’t have to cook anything from scratch for several days.

      I should keep a log sometime because I’m really curious how much time we spend cooking during an average week. Probably several hours for each of us I would guess.

  7. Dang, your YTD expense is ridiculously low. Nice job.
    Good going with the tires too. A lot of people drive around on old tires. It’s not safe. I think we paid about $500 for tires last year. I need to check my spreadsheet.
    I was thinking about paying taxes with a Visa card too, but it’s a bit too late to sign up for another card. I probably need to back off a bit anyway. We already got 3 new cards last month. Getting a Visa debit card is a great hack. I’ll keep that in mind for next time. I didn’t like paying the 2% charge.

  8. Way to go! Very jealous of your month long trip to the Bahamas coming up..

    I’m also going to be utilizing buying gift cards to meet the $4K minimum spend on my new card. Will be utilizing the sites you mentioned!

  9. Did you do an alignment with your new tires?

    Unusual wear typically means the alignment is off or something in the front suspension is wearing and out of whack. Sway bar links is common.

    No fun to pay for an alignment, but hate to see another set of tires wear fast.

    The month in the Bahamas sounds great. My college roommate lives there and he is a dentist. Ha.

    I can shoot you a referral name if you need some work while there. 🙂

    1. I’ll probably do an alignment once I get them installed (at a place that does the “free alignment check; only pay if you need an alignment”). The wear isn’t really uneven as it’s like that on both sides of the front tires (it’s FWD). The shop wouldn’t rotate the front tires to rear since their policy is to put least worn tires on the rear (for safety). So the end result is the front tires wore out first before the rear tires did. And they were very worn (probably 75-80% of their useful tread life) when we bought the van but I knew that going into the purchase and tires are relatively cheap.

      As for the dentist, I’m hoping to avoid that kind of professional while in the Bahamas! We’ll be on Grand Bahama Island (Freeport) which is pretty far from the other Bahamas islands. Is your guy there?

  10. The Visa Debit Gift Card tax payment thing is life changing for me. I’ve never paid taxes with credit cards because the fees were too high (2%-3%). With the taxes we pay quarterly, we’ll be getting a bunch of free hotel nights. Thanks for the tip.

    1. You might want to research it, but I think they limit the number of payments you can make each quarter. 2 per quarter comes to mind, though that might be 2 per quarter for each of 3 online processors. So you could do $500 x 2 or $500 x 2 x 3 = $1000 or $3000 each quarter with debit cards.

      And by the way, you can specify any amount on each payment. So for a $500 card, if the transaction fee is $2.59, I’ll pay $497.41, then the fee gets added so I use up the entire $500 card.

  11. I love reading your monthly updates! Definitely something to aspire to and to adopt your strategies as someone only about a year and a half in. I especially love that you seem to have lots of fun while still keeping in budget.

  12. Good article, thank you for sharing. Just a quick question. Does your total Net Worth include your home? I currently have a house that is worth about 300k and two commercial office rental building worth about 130k each. We do not have a mortgage on both the house and commercial properties. I just noticed on Personal Capital you can add this to your total Net Worth using the “other” tab. This will boost our N.W, by 560k.
    Thank you.

    1. Yes, my NW includes the home value. I’m carrying it at $177k whereas Zillow says it’s worth $200k. Zillow is probably right but I’m sticking a small discount on the value to account for a rental commission and some repairs if I had to sell it.

      This might be obvious, but don’t include your house in your portfolio when you’re applying the 4% rule. The house will reduce your annual housing expense but isn’t an asset like a mutual fund that will provide 4% income.

  13. Well, we just signed up for (and I’m glad we could use your referral link; it’s the very least I can do for all the advice you’ve provided). Paid $770.74 for $800 in Airbnb gift cards for our two-week Berlin trip in August, plus two percent back in credit card travel rewards. We would’ve spent that money anyway — now we get a nice meal or two out of it.

    Thanks for all the tips!

  14. Whoa big spender! You nearly blew the doors off of May! 🙂

    Hehe, you guys always have the lowest expenses! I’m getting to the point where I need to buy new tires for our car too. Oh, and nice trick using the credit card to buy the Visa Debit card.

    How does that work when you need to “stack” multiple debit cards together to pay a large bill like your taxes?

    Anyway, have a good time in the Bahamas!

    1. Check out Discount Tires Direct!

      For stacking debit cards, it depends. Local and state taxes let you use an unlimited number of cards (you just pay the $2.59 fee or whatever on each transaction). Federal taxes have a limit on number of payments each quarter which is 2. I don’t know if that’s 2 per payment provider or 2 total across all providers. And there are 3 providers that accept payment for fed taxes.

  15. Nice month, Justin. Really happy for the whole family; continued good luck.

    Quick question – would you guess that using the Visa/MC gift/debit cards would work on local taxes as well, such as property taxes, regarding the lower fee that is? I purchase a lot of the Visa/MC gift cards at our local grocery store, both for the 6% rebate on the AmEx card, as well as the gas points. Been paying the yearly property taxes with a regular credit card since the fee wasn’t as high as the rebate, so I am curious your thoughts.

    Couple of ways I am “ruthlessly” parring down monthly costs this month:
    1. Switched from a large DirecTV charge of $200+ per month (yeah, we had overkill on the channels) to the streaming DTVN service from them for $50 per month. Complemented it with the lowest cost Netflix DVD service (the old mailing program of DVDs, which still exists) since all the movies I like are not available on Netflix streaming.
    2. Switching today from my former high cost security service (rhymes with ABT) to a self-installed service where you buy the hardware upfront (rhymes with Simplysafe 🙂 Even though I had to pay for the hardware upfront with the new provider, our coverage points are vastly increased in the house, and the difference in 24 hour monitoring costs will show a payback of only six months on the hardware.

    Lastly, had the $618 I earned from opening the Chase Sapphire Card as you suggested transferred to my bank account, and will cancel the card before the annual fee kicks in. Life is good, my friend.

    1. Congrats on the Sapphire cash back and the other cost-cutting methods! Sounds like thousands of dollars of savings on an annual basis!

      As for debit cards and local taxes, they definitely work in my county. My property tax bill is $1550 or so, and I used 3 $500 debit cards to pay $498 per card plus the $2 transaction fee for debit (vs 2% with credit!). The remaining $56 or so, I used bank draft to pay to avoid the fee. There was no limit on how many payments I could make as far as I could tell.

  16. Wow, RoG! Another great month for you! I think it literally just clicked for me (despite reading your blog for years, and reading through your income/expense reports each month) that you are living solely off dividends/income and not actually selling off portions of the principal, right? Wowee! That’s where I hope to get someday! Did you start off that way, or did the bull run sort of shift that strategy?

    I love your animal photos and am jealous of your house view of the river, the clouds, of trees… I live in the city, so we don’t see too much. I enjoy looking at your views through pictures instead. 🙂

    Since you were kind enough to ask, we spent 3 weeks in Nepal and got back on May 19th. It was an experience that I’ll never forget, and I learned that if I want to actually relax..the bustling city just south of Kathmandu really isn’t the place to do it. (So I am SO going to soak up your Bahama photos!!!) I think SO and I truly, truly (I hope?) had our ‘turning point’ conversation about saving up money to get out of this rat race asap. He didn’t want to leave Nepal since it went SO QUICK, and we didn’t want to ruin all our feelings with going back to work on Monday. Blargh.
    Also, I think I’d like to get back into an old hobby of mine (close-up photography, so I’ll need to pick up some lenses for our DSLR) but I have no clue how to monetize it. I also have one more craftsy idea that I have no clue if it’ll even garner any interest adventures there I guess? I am terrified of failing side hustles (especially the $$ put in that can be lost), so I never really tried very hard…

    Thanks for your blog for the continued inspiration!

    1. For our living expenses, we spend all the dividends in our taxable account and that plus the blog/consulting income is typically enough to cover our expenses each month. When we sell taxable investments, the proceeds usually go to fund solo 401ks to offset the blog income.

  17. Justin- when you guys travel and eat out, buy gas for rental car,etc. Do you score those as “travel” or their respective categories? I’m debating for myself and new-ish to tracking with Personal Capital.

    1. Dining out, rental car gas are all travel. I debate the grocery expenses since it’s often about the same as what we’re buying at home. I usually include it in travel expenses since sometimes we do spend more out of convenience or due to staying in a higher COL city. In the Bahamas, for example, prices are probably 50% higher than home for groceries and there is no equivalent to Aldi/Lidl/Superwalmart plus we won’t have a rental car everyday and might have to shop at the local store with even higher prices!

      I also like to look at the total costs I avoid when traveling – lower utilities, no grocery expenses at home, no dining out (because it all becomes “travel” expenses!), etc.

  18. wrt college, low income services at a high net worth is only half the equation for college. The FASFA will look at your net worth outside of your retirement accounts and use your contribution at about 5.6%. It’s not the same as getting low income medical, cable, other services when you are a multi-millionaire with the FASFA and college.

    Being an NC resident, acceptance into State and Chapel Hill for worthwhile (STEM) degrees is not easy. The A’s will help, but they will need more. Lot’s of AP, volunteer, extra curricular, sports. If the push continues for women in STEM, that will help your girls. There are 2+2 programs at Wake Tech that guarantee acceptance into NCState if you complete the program. That can save big money.

    1. Good point about the FAFSA looking at assets, too. Yes, our taxable account will cost us some lost aid. I think we’ll still do okay but if not we can afford to pay full price 🙂 I cover that in my college cost article (where I basically say I still think we’ll make out okay, especially when 2 kids are in college at the same time!).

      As for the NC State and Chapel Hill admissions, I know it’s competitive but they are in a very strong academic middle school which feeds into one of the best academic high schools (my alma mater 😉 ). A dozen AP classes is par for the course among the elite at that high school, and it’s probably even more competitive now. My kids are doing very well so they are on course to follow after their daddy and roll out of high school with a couple years’ college credit due to CLEPs, AP courses, and college release (I took several engineering and other courses at NCSU while in high school for example). So I don’t think either kid will have a hard time gaining admission to NCSU/UNC and if so, perhaps they can enroll as general education majors and switch later. And there’s the diversity initiatives. The kids are part pacific islander/native Hawaiian, female, and children of a refugee (so the diversity essay is gonna read pretty sweet!).

      1. Sounds like great kids! Watch out for attempting to transfer into the engineering school at State. They make it sound easy, but it is not. You have to take certain classes and get above a certain grade. However, the rub is those classes prioritize existing engineering students and usually fill up before non engineers are accepted in.

        As far as cultural diversity and quotas. I disagree with treating one ethnic group different from another for benefit or detriment.

        1. I went to NC State for engineering and yes, it could be difficult. But if they stay on the path they are on now (with excellent grades/scores in science and math), they’ll be like me and complete all the required math and science for their engineering degree during high school! All it took to get me into NC State a little early was a peek at my AP test score sheet in the admissions office.

  19. I always get the BEST info here. Super excited to learn about the Visa debit card trick for taxes… I like buying gift cards at the grocery store to get points for gas – so I almost always have $1 off gas at any time. I’m thinking it would work similarly; buy a Visa debit with a new card to meet minimum spend, get 4x gas rewards for $$ off fuel, then use that to pay taxes with a lower fee… Of course you guys barely spend on gas anyhow so NBD for you 🙂 but we drive a lot so always looking for ways to cut those costs!
    Although now that I think of it, that would probably get us more fuel reward points than we could ever use anyhow… even we don’t drive THAT much!

    1. I stopped chasing the gas rewards. I actually just filled up today for the first time since March and don’t expect to do so again till August.

      1. Yes – we’re in MT, where there’s literally nothing close to anything else… so our gas bills are going to kinda suck as long as we’re here 😉 walkability is definitely a priority for our next location though!

  20. I just paid $55 in Farm Bureau Dues. Differences in insurance costs i can understand but membership fees. What gives?

  21. Those are some pretty darn low expenses Root of Good! And the food you made looks amazing as well. This was the first monthly report I’ve read, but it definitely won’t be my last. We bought some Hydrangeas recently and I’ve been watching them grow in a pot . Soon I’ll plant them in the ground and hopefully they will be as nice as yours.


  22. Congratulations on another good month !! I am declaring myself financially independent now – but not really “early” retirement. My youngest child has graduated from college and started a full time job. I decided to help out my kids with college expenses so they would not have any college loans. Otherwise I could have retired earlier. I know you have written on the topic of college financing in the past. Have a good time in the Bahamas !!

    1. So you’re FI, but did you just retire too? Congrats if so! Nobody’s keeping strict track of ages around here 🙂 Late is better than never!

      1. I am working part-time by choice, because the my current job is still pretty interesting and low stress. However, I plan to take plenty of time off, and I could quit anytime if my job became uninteresting or stressful.

  23. Awesome month again, Justin!

    I went part time at work on May 16 and have been loving the new arrangement. I’m officially at 60% but I’m burning vacation time to get to that number. I’ll eventually drop below 60% and have to go on the exchange for healthcare. I finished maxing out my 401k on my May 31 paycheck which always feels good.

    We got our beach condo rented every day through Sept. 28 – looks like we’re going to achieve a 7% ROE there and still have 6-8 weeks of personal use time (mostly in the off-season) so I am loving that. VRBO and Airbnb make it easy to landlord remotely.

    Now that I’m working (and hadn’t planned to be) we’ve got a lot of extra $ coming in every month. We’re mostly saving and investing the excess but I am considering a few vacations…

    Looking forward to hearing about your progress in June!

  24. You have excellent timing regarding the gift card being a debit card as we are about to make a tax payment ourselves. How do you ensure the gift card is also a debit card before you buy it? Thanks!

    1. It should say “Debit” on the front of the card. The Visas at Giftcardmall all appear to be Debit cards. The ones I used to get at Walmart were also Visa debit cards.

  25. I always like how you keep your spending down even though you could probably easily spend more on things for convenience etc. Similar to what MMM does. I am the same way. I dont like paying a premium for food, repairs, etc when I dont have to or seek out good deals on things I need. Lots of hacks out there if you just put in the effort. I’ve been taking advantage of the 5% Paypal cashback too on my Chase card. Cardcash had a sale for 5% off everything then I used my Paypal account for an additional 5%. Also, I have Direct TV Now for a $10 a month promo and am paying for it using my Paypal account. I believe a lot of companies now accept Paypal so you just have to look.

  26. I paid my taxes using credit card this year. The fee from IRS partners was 1.87% the minimal rate
    Based on what you say I’m planning to purchase visa gift cards and use it to pay the bills to save hefty credit card transaction fees

  27. Hey there! Long time no see. Looks like the site got a bit of a facelift…more white space. Nice! I’m very curious about your future trip to Cuba…I think I can safely say I don’t know anyone that’s been. I enjoyed all the photos of raleigh fieldlings… I see so little of nature going from box 1 (my apt) to box 2 (my car) to box 3 (my cubicle). Um why does all your food look so yummy? And how do you know how to cook from so many cultures?

    Now speaking as a newbie to FIRE/investing… what is the difference in your net worth climbing $21,000 and dividend income of $339? I thought they were the same?? This is open to anyone…

    Oh I do finish freezer food periodically too! Except usually in feb…not only because it’s alliterative but it starts to get warm here then and who to used heat to cooks freezer stuff.
    Lastly, groupon has deals on dental care too, but the rates you paid seemed not too bad.

    1. The cooking – I’m a fan of Mexican cuisine and like to cook that. Mrs. Root of Good is from SE Asia so she’s learned tons of dishes growing up in that culture. That plus youtube and the internet 🙂

      As for the net worth vs dividends, the dividends are just a measure of cash flow each month, while almost all of the net worth gains are actually capital gains: the increase in the value of mutual funds and ETFs.

  28. May was a bit spendy for us between some lumpy one time expenses like planting trees and grill replacement coupled with paying for some upcoming travel.

    BUT on the other side of the ledger I negotiated a substantial raise (33%) and My wife is also slated for a July 1st raise.

    Also last week made our FINAL 403b loan payment. So now I’ll adjust our contribution % to get about the same amount going in but it will be pretax.

    Life is good 🙂 enjoy your Summer RoG clan!!

    1. Congrats on the raise! Hopefully you can save/invest most of that newfound wealth 🙂 We did that with most raises and it helped contribute to our bottom line savings each year.

  29. Hi Justin,

    It’s another nice month for me. I note that you are approaching $2.1 million networth without a full-time employment for five years.

    This goes to show that it is possible to lead a FIRE lifestyle without a full time employment.


  30. Wow! This is goals! I can’t even imagine living a life where you hop on over to the Bahamas for a month. The hubby and I are just starting to prep for early retirement and things like that. I want to be retired by the time we’re 40. But seeing y’all going all kinds of places makes me want to work harder!

    1. In hindsight, I’m glad we started planning for early retirement at an early age. Now I take it for granted that we can do these 1-2 month overseas trips every year and never run out of money. But yeah, it’s pretty great to be in this position since we used to be two ordinary regular salaried workers at average jobs.

  31. You made Mole poblano? Hardcore! Doesn’t that require 50 ingredients? Looks really delicious!

    Congrats on another great month and enjoy your upcoming vacation in the Bahamas!

    1. We buy it in a jar pre-made. So not exactly from scratch but we did simmer it for a couple of hours till the meat was falling apart and the sauce got nice and thick.

  32. Investment income of $389 ? I’m new to all of this. Seems it should be higher based on the 4% rule?

    1. That’s because my funds pay dividends at the end of each quarter. I expect several thousand $ to be paid soon in June (if it’s not there already – haven’t checked!).

      And I only count interest and dividends as “investment income”, not cap gains when I’m selling something.

    2. I’m with you pablo… i had to look it up even after justin explained it.
      this sort of helps: (not really):

      i guess, i’m wondering how you, justin are getting the dividend paid out to you? vs being reinvested? i have a robo-advisor for now..and they just say oh we reinvested your 23 cents of dividends… ..but if it were like 2300 dollars… do you set something up ahead of time to have it paid out to you like you do, justin? as a check or what have you?

      also i’ve clicked notify me of follow-up comments by email…and i get no notification :/

      1. The dividends get dumped into the cash/money market accounts at the brokerage firm. Once each quarter I transfer the money to my checking account so I can spend it! In fact, it’s the end of June so all my funds pay dividends right now. Around July 2-3 I’ll go collect all those dividends and transfer them to my checking account.

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