Well folks, we’ve almost made it through 2020! Thanksgiving is over and the Christmas/New Years holidays are rapidly approaching. Even though the way we celebrate these holidays will likely look different this year, they are always something I look forward to.
In November, we were able to get outside a lot and enjoy the cool fall days. I appreciate the nice weather right now because I know it will be cold for a couple of months during the winter. So we make the most of it while we can!
In financial terms, November was a phenomenally great month. Our net worth went up $243,000 to end the month at $2,405,000. Our income, while lower than most months at $1,744, still managed to exceed November’s spending of $1,437.
Let’s jump into the details from last month.
Investment income totaled $350 in November which came from our bond allocation. Our equity index funds and ETFs pay dividends quarterly at the end of March, June, September, and December with some payments arriving at the beginning of the next month. Here’s more on our dividend investments.
Blog income totaled $738 for the month which was significantly lower than usual. One advertiser didn’t pay during November. Or the check was “lost in the mail”. I’ll have to follow up to find out what happened. Fortunately I don’t rely on income from this blog to pay for our living expenses so lower revenue isn’t a problem at all.
My early retirement lifestyle consulting income (“consulting”) was $275 for the month of November which represents two hours of consulting sessions.
The “deposit income” totaled $93 in November.
Included in deposit income is a $25 redemption of some cash back points on a credit card.
Another $31 came from the Ibotta cash back app (referral link). They’re offering a $10 sign up bonus if you want to use my referral link.
The final $36 in deposit income came from cash back and incentive bonuses from the Ebates.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 Ebates/Rakuten through this link and make a qualifying $20 purchase through Ebates/Rakuten, you’ll get a $20 sign up bonus (limited time only; normal bonus is $10 after a $25 purchase).
Youtube earnings totaled $287 for last month. This income mostly comes from a couple of DIY home improvement videos that Mrs. Root of Good filmed and edited (starring me!).
If you’re interested in tracking your income and expenses like I do, then check out Personal Capital (it’s free!). All of our savings and spending accounts (including checking, money market, and five credit cards) are all linked and updated in real time through Personal Capital. We have accounts all over the place, and Personal Capital makes it really easy to check on everything at one time.
Personal Capital is also a solid tool for investment management. Keeping track of our entire investment portfolio takes two clicks. If you haven’t signed up for the free Personal Capital service, check it out today (review here).
Tracking spending was one of the critical steps I took that allowed me to retire at 33. And it’s now easier than ever with Personal Capital.
Now let’s take a look at November expenses:
In total, we spent $1,437 during November which is almost $2,000 less than our regularly budgeted $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year). Groceries and insurance topped the spending categories for the month.
Detailed breakdown of spending:
Groceries – $570:
Grocery expenses were slightly above average at $570 for the month. We tend to spend around $500-550 per month.
We bought a bunch of food for Thanksgiving. Initially, we planned to host 28 people on Thanksgiving day and dine in the backyard. Due to a sharp rise in numbers of new cases during November, we made the tough call to cancel the big family get together.
We ended up cooking a much reduced Thanksgiving dinner just for immediate family and made a few extra desserts and side dishes to “trade” with extended family. So we were still able to enjoy a wide variety of traditional American Thanksgiving items plus the more exotic Southeast Asian cuisines from Mrs. Root of Good’s side of the family.
I’m still using Walmart Grocery pick up service several times per month along with visits to Aldi, Lidl, and Food Lion.
The Walmart grocery pickers put together your order for you and you just drive up and click a button on the Walmart app to get them to bring the order out to you. The best part is you pay the same low prices as they offer in-store to all their customers and there is no delivery fee.
If you want to try Walmart Grocery, you can take $10 off your first $50+ order with my referral link. Enjoy!
In other grocery “spending”, I got a free six pack of wine from First Leaf Wines using the Swagbucks app ($10 bonus Swagbucks for new accounts). The wine was pretty tasty to my simplistic non-oenophile palate.
First Leaf also included neat info cards for each wine that talked about the region of the world where the wine is from. It’s almost like traveling there in person! 😉
Insurance – $259:
Our six-month auto insurance premiums for 2 people.
General Merchandise – $226:
The biggest purchase was a $150 Sam’s Club gift card I bought during November (using Swagbucks for 12% cash back on the gift card purchase). We used part of the gift card to order gifts and other random stuff from Walmart during November.
We also ordered some new stainless steel pots and pans from Macy’s for $65. Some of these new pots and pans will be Christmas gifts for family.
Rounding out the “general merchandise” purchases is $9 for plastic chair leg inserts. Last month, we saw a neighbor giving away six nice metal chairs for free. We picked them up and realized they were missing the plastic chair leg inserts that keep them from scratching up the floor. Fortunately I found a set of 24 inserts on ebay for only $9 shipped. We also spent a few dollars on some nice fabric to reupholster the seats.
I think the end result looks pretty nice!
Healthcare/Medical/Dental – $135:
Our 2020 healthcare premiums are $123 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.
In November, I paid the $123 premium using a rewards card provided by our insurance company (so the net cost was $0).
I signed up for new 2021 health insurance and made the first premium payment of $135 during November. That’s the net cost after a $700+ per month premium tax credit.
Both of the adults in our household bought dental insurance since the premiums are anticipated to be much less than the actual dental care we receive during 2020. The premiums total $64 per month for the two of us. This expense for November hit the credit card statement in the first days of December so it’ll be reported in next month’s financials.
Restaurants – $109:
Look at us big spenders. $100 for a Taco Bell gift card that came with $20 in bonus gift cards. That’s a lot of tacos. We’ll probably still have some of the $100 gift card left over for our big summer 2021 USA road trip (if it happens).
I also spent $9 on a Groupon for a local Mexican restaurant and picked up 5 takeout plates. Groupon is a good way to get a roughly 50% discount at many local restaurants.
Home Maintenance – $103:
I bought a $100 Lowe’s Home Improvement gift card for $75 through a promotion at my neighborhood grocery store.
I also spent $28 to buy replacement glass sheets for 2 of our storm windows in the front of the house. Thanks to a drive by shooting, we had 2 window panes shot out. Fortunately it was just a teenager with a BB gun cruising along having some “fun” and not a “real” drive by.
In spite of my DIY skillz, I broke one of the glass sheets when installing it. So I stuck a piece of clear tape over the second storm window and may just ignore it forever. It’s a small bullet hole/crack and kind of behind a bush. No big deal, right?
Plus it makes for a good story if anyone ever comments on it. And it gives our house “character”.
I found out that Ace Hardware is a great place to buy cut-to-order sheet glass for window pane replacement. It was actually cheaper than Lowes and Home Depot, plus Ace would cut it for me. Lowes and Home Depot no longer cut glass in my region. Compared to local glass shop quotes, Ace Hardware was 65% cheaper.
Utilities – $37:
In November I paid $37 for the city water, sewer, and trash bill. I used up some random Visa gift cards that I’ve acquired throughout the year to pay the other $100 or so toward the water bill.
The natural gas bill for heating and hot water was $0 since we got a $150 rebate in the form of a bill credit when we installed our new tankless water heater in May. I still have a $17 credit balance on the natural gas account, so we’ll have to pay something for heating in December.
Our electricity bill was $69 for November. This fall has been warmer than usual, so we had to use the air conditioning a little. I paid the $69 using a reward card from our health insurance company so the net cost was $0 for the month.
Cable/Satellite – $0:
We 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.
I used a rewards card from our health insurance company to pay the $18 internet bill for November, so the net cost to me was $0.
Total Spending for 2020 – Year to Date
Our spending totals $26,616 for the first 11 months of the year. This is about $10,000 less than the $36,667 we budgeted for 11 months of our $40,000 annual early retirement budget.
Without really trying, we have managed to significantly underspend our normal budget. Zero travel certainly helped in that regard. However, we have booked several cruises for 2021 that will hopefully happen. If so, we’ll end up paying a few thousand dollars once the full cruise payments come due during 2021. Next month’s expenses already include $800 in cruise deposits charged at the end of November that didn’t hit the credit card statements until December.
Monthly Expense Summary for 2020:
- January – $2,682
- February – $2,618
- March – $1,600
- April – $1,324
- May – $4,692
- June – $2,311
- July – $3,035
- August – $3,468
- September – $1,830
- October – $1,624
- November – $1,437
Summary of annual spending from all years of early retirement:
- 2014 – $34,352
- 2015 – $23,802
- 2016 – $38,991
- 2017 – $31,708
- 2018 – $29,058
- 2019 – $25,630
- 2020 (year to date) – $26,616
Net Worth: $2,405,000 (+$243,000)
Well how about that? Stocks went way up and we made a ton of money.
With a $243,000 gain during November, our net worth ended the month at $2,405,000. This is a new all time high for us. We are up roughly $60,000 from our highest point before the March 2020 pandemic crash.
Will these gains stick around long term? We’ll see!
All this money and no place to go. The story of our 2020.
To put life in perspective, we are incredibly fortunate. As the weather turns colder, I marvel at the fact that we don’t have to worry about heating our house or keeping food on the table. Our house is paid off, so keeping a roof over our heads isn’t an issue either.
There’s a paid off car in the driveway. My bicycle works well. Our house is full of computers, TVs, and gaming systems, along with hundreds of books. We want for nothing. Life is good.
And the best part of it all? We no longer need to work to pay for any of our material needs.
Compared to a lot of people around the world, we are living a most luxurious life. Even by American standards, we score pretty well on the “quality of life” index.
Of course, we worked hard to build our savings and investments to provide the life that we have today.
Even though some parts of 2020 proved disappointing, it was “just another year” in many respects. And it is a lot easier to accept temporary disappointments when you know that the future has better things in store for you!
Who’s ready to say goodbye to 2020 and welcome the new year?
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