May 2019 Financial Update – Lazy May Daze Edition

May was another successful month of early retirement. We took it easy and enjoyed a relatively slow month of leisure with family and friends. I spent a few days being a “real” blogger and influencer by attending Camp FI in Virginia where I gave a presentation titled “FIRE for Fun!”.  That makes me a real blogger, right? 

Our finances were a mixed bag in May. Our net worth dropped precipitously by $87,000 to end the month at $2,022,000. Fortunately our cash flow situation was much better. Income remained decent at $3,438 while our expenses dropped significantly to only $752 for the month of May. When income exceeds outflow, you can’t worry about finances too much! 

Let’s jump into the details from last month.



Investment income totaled $491 in May. Our equity mutual funds and ETFs pay dividends quarterly at the end of March, June, September, and December. As a result, the May investment income was lower than the quarter-end months. The $491 investment income represents interest from our fixed income holdings which are primarily the VBTLX Vanguard Total Bond fund plus a low five figure cash/money market position. 

Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, totaled $2,365 for the month of May which is fairly average. I received a double payment in May from one source so June blog income will be a bit lower. 

My early retirement lifestyle consulting income (“consulting”) dropped significantly in May to only $130 for the month. This represents one hour of consulting. This lack of work may explain why May was particularly leisurely! 

Deposit income of $452 which was cash back and incentive bonuses 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. 



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.

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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.


Don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers.



Now let’s take a look at May expenses:


In total, we spent $752 during May which is less than a quarter of our target spending of $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year).  June will see a lot more spending since our home and auto insurance bills are due. 


Detailed breakdown of spending:


Groceries – $367:

Our grocery spending is trailing off due to our upcoming two month trip overseas. We are trying to empty the fridge, freezer, and pantry to the extent possible, so that’s why we are spending less on groceries in the past month. 

I don’t know how this happened but we’ve started to buy more organic products like fresh greens. They don’t carry the non-organic version of what we want at our usual stores, so we end up getting the organic version. That’s all wrapped up within the $367 grocery spending so it’s not like this minor upgrade is making a noticeable difference in overall grocery spending! 

In other grocery news, I just cancelled my free Costco membership because their prices are higher across the board. 

The customer service rep at Costco asked why I wanted to cancel and I stated “the prices at Costco aren’t competitive with the local grocery stores on most items”. She said it was the first time she’s ever heard that! Maybe she’s a new employee or maybe the typical Costco shopper doesn’t comparison shop. As I found out during an extensive comparison of prices, Costco is about 35-40% more expensive than the local grocery stores.

I did save about $2 per tank of gas at Costco. However, the Costco isn’t very conveniently located to me, so I’d be driving out of the way just to save a few bucks.  No thanks. 


Potluck Mother’s Day celebration at Mrs. Root of Good’s mom’s house. We made the pumpkin and cream cheese rolls on the right.


Last month the couple behind the Stop Ironing Shirts early retirement blog were in Raleigh so we hosted them for dinner. He just retired early at age 36 (as you can tell from that smile).


The real secret to a <$400 grocery budget for a family of five: my green onion garden. We save literally $0.50 per month during the growing season but more importantly, we always have fresh green onions.


Clothing/Shoes – $147:

A bit of marathon shopping for clothes and shoes in May. We bought two pairs of athletic shoes, two pairs of sandals, a bathing suit, and other clothing for our upcoming two month trip to Asia. We also bought a $17 dress for our daughter’s eighth grade formal dance (discounted from a much higher price of course!). 

We also bought a $10 school T-shirt that doubles as a fundraiser. 


Healthcare/Medical – $46:

Our 2019 healthcare premiums are $31 per month thanks to very generous Affordable Care Act subsidies that we receive due to our low ~$40,000 per year Adjusted Gross Income. The benefit of being “poor” on our tax return.

Other healthcare spending includes a $10 copay for a prescription and a $5 copay for a doctor’s visit. I had some lab work done during the doctor’s visit but the bill didn’t arrive until June.


Not a bad place to stop and rest in the middle of a 20 mile bike ride around Raleigh.


Automotive – $45:

This might be a weird one for those that think I’m frugal.

I don’t change my own oil in my car. I take it to the dealer.

For $45 (discounted about $15 thanks to a coupon) they change my oil and do a detailed inspection for free. They always find several “major” things wrong with the vehicle that they recommend I fix immediately.

This time around it was $2,000 for several items including a new steering rack (“leaking power steering fluid”) and a new battery (“old one passes charge test but it’s past the warranty period”).  


I’ll keep an eye on the power steering fluid level which hasn’t moved in three years of ownership. I’ll also watch for a puddle of PS fluid on the driveway where I park. I assume the auto shop found a tiny leak that will never materialize into something major.

I’ll also take note of any difficulty cranking due to weakening battery. In addition, I might get a battery check at Autozone in late fall before cold weather sets in. Worst case is my battery dies in the middle of winter and I ride my bike to one of the three auto parts stores in the neighborhood (have I mentioned how I love living in the city? 🙂 ). 

And in the meantime while I waited for the oil change and inspection to be completed, I got to hang out at the swanky dealership with Mrs. Root of Good while enjoying free fancy coffee drinks and eating freshly popped buttery popcorn. For this oil change, the only grease I got on my hands was from the popcorn. 

After the auto work we went on a hike in the city nature preserve while we were in that part of Raleigh. 


Utilities – $41:

The water, sewer, and trash bill from the city had a positive credit balance from extra payments in previous months. No payment was due. 

The natural gas bill was $41 which includes a small amount of home heating plus the regular usage for the water heater. 

I prepaid the electric bill a long time ago to hit the minimum spending requirement on credit cards, so I don’t have a monthly electric bill to pay right now. This month I will use up my bill credit and have to resume payments for electricity. Which is perfect timing because I have two new credit cards on the way with two sets of spending requirements!

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


Gasoline – $34:

About three quarters of a tank of gas. Costco saved me $2 on the fill up. We buy gas so infrequently that the Costco savings don’t add up to much. 


We used two free museum passes in May. Just had to spend a dollar on gas to get to and from the museum in downtown.


Restaurants – $22:

$22 for takeout from Mrs. Root of Good’s favorite Chinese restaurant on the extreme opposite side of town near where she used to work. We are rarely in that part of town so grabbing take out from there isn’t usually convenient. I happened to find a free electronics class for our older kids and it was right next door to her former favorite lunch spot. Their Mandarin Tofu is unique and delicious. 


Gifts – $20:

Two Lego sets to give for future kids birthday party gifts.  Our son gets invited to several of these per year so it’s good to have appropriate gifts on hand when they can be acquired at a good price. 


One of those birthday parties. They got to make their own pizza for lunch!


My son decided making pizza from scratch was cool. So we tried it at home. I’m going to leave it to the pros. 


Education – $18:

The elementary school yearbook was $18 this year. 


We chaperoned a field trip in May. I thought we would have to pay $20 to get into the park but it was free. And they had a huge inflated trampoline thingy. I may have flipped more than one kid WAY into the air “by accident”. No broken bones or crying thank goodness.


File this under “occasionally test your boundaries by doing things you aren’t really comfortable doing”. I’m surprised there weren’t broken bones from this rickety improvised downhill slide. We sat on a sled attached to skateboard wheels. I was sure I would die throughout the 15 second ride down the hill (but I survived unscathed).


Cable/Satellite – $15:

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


Total Spending in 2019


By the end of May we were $7,500 under the $16,667 budgeted for five months of our $40,000 annual early retirement budget. We have a spending problem (in a good way!). 

Spending in June will definitely be higher than May’s spending since the home and auto insurance bills total almost $1,000.

However, we may not spend a ton in June.  We will spend the second half of June vacationing in Vietnam where costs are very low. Our plane tickets and lodging are already paid for. Local transportation is only a few bucks for a taxi. Meals will average $1-2 per person for street food or $5 if we visit a sit down restaurant. Museum admissions are generally about $1 per person. 


I’m going to miss our backyard view while we are overseas all summer. Other things I miss about home when I travel.


This guy keeps the yard clear of mice and snakes.


This heron keeps the fish from overpopulating the lake.


Monthly Expense Summary for 2019:


Summary of annual spending from all years of early retirement:


Mrs. Root of Good’s May project: sorting out and assembling a dozen Lego sets from the Big Bin of Mixed Up Legos. Mission Accomplished!



Net Worth: $2,022,000 (-$87,000)

Last month I said:

This roller coaster keeps going higher! Wheee! 

May also felt like a roller coaster ride in the downward direction. I don’t like roller coasters at all but I’m strangely okay with watching the portfolio swing back and forth by $50,000 or $100,000. 

Our net worth dropped by $87,000 to end the month at $2,022,000. The first few days of June have seen the balances recover slightly. It’s all noise at this point. 



Our modest spending is easily supported by our investment portfolio long term, so months like these where we lose $87,000 don’t mean too much since the value is constantly going up and down. 


Update on Life In General

Our kids are almost done with school for the year. They have a couple more days before they are officially out for summer vacation. Our oldest daughter is graduating from middle school and will go to high school in the fall.

Our first grader (and us parents!) worked really hard this past year. While studying first grade math at school he worked on the second grade math curriculum at home (mostly Khan Academy). He took a year-end mathematics assessment to test out of second grade math. And we just found out he passed! In the fall he will move up to a second grade class for most subjects but he will attend math with the third graders. 


So proud of this little guy! 3rd grade math here we come!


At Camp FI Midatlantic in Virginia. We had two camera crews filming us for various projects. Want to join me in 2020? I’ll be there May 29 to June 1, 2020. Tickets are selling fast


Right now we are one week away from hopping on a plane destined for Southeast Asia where we will spend eight weeks exploring Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. We have the plane tickets and lodging booked for the entire trip so all we have to do is get to the airport on time and enjoy a week or two in many different cities across Southeast Asia. 

Life is going very well for us right now! 

That’s it for this month’s installment of “What Is Root of Good Up To??”. Tune in next month to see where we’re at! 



Is it summer wherever you are? It definitely is here in North Carolina! What excitement do you have planned for this summer?



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  1. Wow, that’s some impressively low spending for May Justin! You frugal like no other!

    You know it’s OK to spend a little right? You’re way under budget! 😉

    Seriously though, thanks for all you do. You guys continue to set a great example of how a family can lead a great life and still spend very little.

    Enjoy your SE Asia trip!

  2. Thanks for the update! We should call up the BLS and let them know that the CPI dropped by 25% since 2016! 🙂
    Congrats on all your family’s achievements and safe travels this summer! Too bad I missed you at the CampFI this year!

  3. Your car is out of warranty. You should probably replace that, too. I’ve never heard of replacing a battery just because it’s out of warranty! I would have thrown away most of the condiments in my life if I followed that rule…

    And if you try getting a car battery home on a bike, in the snow, we’d all appreciate pictures or better yet a video!

  4. Damn, you’re lying about your expense. Around $750 for a family of 5? It can’t be true in the US.
    I gotta move to NC.
    Have a great trip!

  5. When you get back from Vietnam, consider bringing your car to an independent mechanic for a second opinion on the repairs recommended by the dealer. If there is a steering fluid leak, it sounds like it’s so slow you’ll never see a puddle. Replacing the rack just to fix a leak does seem like overkill. The battery is kind of a no-brainer, just a simple test. As it ages it will get harder for it to hold a charge, especially if you’re not driving the car very often enough or very far. At least, that’s a problem I’ve had.

    Have a great trip!

    1. For cars that aren’t driven much consider a Battery Tender or similar trickle charger. For under $30 you plug in your car and your battery is always topped up.

  6. Like you I am tired of going to the auto dealer and having them discover lots of problems. At 30,000 miles I was told I needed new tires. I said no but did keep watching my tread as the tires were behaving strangely. Tread currently is zero on front tires and 2/32 on back so I dragged myself back to the dealer to get new tires at 34,000 miles. I was standing at the parts desk complaining loudly about how poorly my tires had performed when the service manager came over. He checked my vehicle which is a 2017 Acadia and lo and behold there is a known problem with the tires. They were manufactured incorrectly. Bad news, I still have to have 4 new tires. Good news, I get a 50% discount. If I had gotten the tires earlier I would have paid full price as he only received the letter April 29. No notification from the manufacturer and if I hadn’t been so loud at the parts desk I might never have known there was a problem.

  7. Congrats to your son! Well done!

    Hope you have an amazing time in Asia! Looking forward to your upcoming blog posts as I have never been there.

  8. I love the popcorn grease note 🙂 These monthly updates are my favorite to read, and great early retirement inspiration for us. We’re doing Khan Academy too with our rising first grader and it’s fun seeing how quickly they can advance.

    This summer we’re traveling for two weeks in Florida with family and six weeks in the RV for national parks. In the middle of all this, we’re moving from Oregon to Wyoming and pulling the early retirement trigger in a more affordable town. Not bad for a couple of part time self employed engineers turning 35 this year with a kid! And thanks to you for coaching us years ago (we lived in Orlando then) on the nuts and bolts of the 5 year pipeline strategy.

  9. Well Justin you know you’re doing something right when you spend more on travel that you do on food.

  10. Keep trying with the home made pizza there is nothing better…here is my recipe. Bake for 15-20 minutes check the base. The last 5 minutes you can put the pizza on the oven shelf to crisp up the bottom. This is so simple. Put ingredients in the bowl and cut/mix with a knife. Bring it together with your hands and knead it for a minute then leave it in the bowl with a tea towel on top for 15 mins. Then stretch it out and place it on a pizza tray with parchment paper and use the tips of your fingers to push and stretch the dough out to the sides of the tray. If it’s sticky sprinkle with a little flour. Heat your oven and don’t put your sauce or topping on until you are about to put it into the oven. YUM> PIZZA BASE RECIPE

    225 gms (One and a half cups) of plain flour (I use bakers flour)
    1 Teaspoon of Dried Yeast
    1/4 teaspoon of salt
    Pinch of sugar
    185ml (3/4 cup) of warm water (I use a thermometer and have water 105-110 F {40-43C})
    2 teaspoons olive oil

    Note: The warm water I use comes out of the tap however I always use the thermometer so I don’t kill my yeast.

    Preheat oven to 240 degrees Celsius {464 F).

    1. Combine the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a large bowl.
    2. Make a well in the centre and add water and oil.
    3. Use a round bladed knife in a cutting motion to mix until combined.
    4. Use your hands to bring the dough together in the bowl.
    5. Turn dough onto a well-floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or until almost smooth.
    6. Place the dough into the bowl and let it sit for 10-15 minutes with a tea towel or cling wrap over the top while you spend some time cutting up some ingredients to go on your pizza.
    7. Place bakers paper/parchment paper on your pizza tray and sprinkle with a little bit of flour.
    8. Tip the dough into the centre of the tray and make sure your fingers have lots of flour on them as this dough is sticky. Lightly stretch and push the dough towards the outside of the pizza tray with the tips of your fingers to make the shape of your pizza.
    9. Once this is done leave it to rest for 5 mins before placing the ingredients on it.
    10. Spread your pizza sauce onto the base and top with your favourite pizza toppings and bake in the oven until it’s the way you like it.

  11. Hahaha @costco they told me the same thing a few years back. That and they added the classic “well yeah but OUR products are of higher quality”. I think they are either trained or brainwashed into repeating these things to everyone. For us tho we wound up going back to Costco for cheaper rx for my mother. I also get to buy some cheap clothes and shoes there from nicer brands with superior quality. So it works out good for us.

  12. Good as always.

    I have found myself going more to the organic / environmentally conscious foods when we shop as well. (E.g. grass-fed beef or free range eggs)
    Since we don’t eat out much I think that it is a reasonable trade off. Plus some of it tastes better and is better for us.

  13. Hi Justin-
    Loved this post – the transparency really makes one feel like it’s possible!
    How do you qualify for such low pricing for internet, and who is it through?

  14. i sure have some house tax/insurance envy for north carolina residents. we live in buffalo and that stuff is double what y’all pay….and our cars get rusty for the trouble. i guess we gotta look into moving when we pull the plug on employment.

    pizza at home isn’t to hard but it does take some practice. that slide does remind me of a death trap.

  15. I love the math accomplishment. I brought this up with my wife, because I wasn’t sure how our school would handle a situation like that. We may have to reach out to them this summer.

  16. would you mind to tell which ETFs and REITs you choose to invest your money?
    Greetings from Brazil.

  17. Thanks for sharing. Whenever I read your updates I am astounded at the low spending. I can’t seem to get just my wife and I under 80k yearly spending in South Florida! Enjoy your trip

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