Another month flew by! In October, we embraced the fall weather and enjoyed the changing of the leaves. The kids enjoyed dressing up for Halloween and gathering huge sacks full of candy. All of us enjoyed the very mild weather which makes the outdoors way more fun.
On the financial front, it was another great month. Our net worth climbed by $44,000 to reach an all time high of $2,167,000. Income remained strong at $3,183 for the month while expenses remained moderate at $2,628.
Let’s jump into the details from last month.
Investment income totaled $455 in October. Our equity mutual 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. Since October isn’t a quarter-end month we didn’t get many dividends. Most of the $455 that we did receive came from bond funds that pay interest on a monthly basis. Here’s more on our dividend investments.
Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, totaled $1,692 for the month. That’s slightly less than what I received in September.
My early retirement lifestyle consulting income (“consulting”) totaled $750 for the month of September which represents six hours of consulting sessions spread across three clients.
The “deposit income” totaled $285. Most of the 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). After a lengthy delay, we finally collected over $200 cash back for the cruise we took to Cuba in April of 2019.
If you sign up for Ebates through this link and make a qualifying $25 purchase through Ebates, you’ll get a $10 gift card.
The other $40 of “deposit” income came from a credit card promotion. My American Express Hilton card offered $40 cash back for $400 spent at an office supply store. I bought $400 in Mastercard gift cards at Staples through an in-store offer where the purchase fee was also waived then collected a quick $40 from Amex!
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 October expenses:
In total, we spent $2,628 during October which is about $700 less than our target spending of $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year). Travel and groceries topped the spending categories for the month. We like to travel and we like to eat, so it’s nice to see our spending align with our values.
Detailed breakdown of spending:
Travel – $955:
We booked another cruise. This time it’s a last minute couple’s getaway since the kids are in school.
In December we set sail on the MSC Divina, a favorite of ours, for 12 days in the Caribbean. Ports of call include:
- Aruba for 2 days
- Cayman Islands
- Ocean Cay – MSC’s private island
We are excited since Aruba, Curacao, and Ocean Cay are all new destinations to us. On top of that, we’ll be docked in Aruba overnight so there is plenty of time to see everything. We are looking forward to Ocean Cay because we’ll be one of the first guests to explore the island.
The total cruise fare was $932 out of pocket for both of us (plus gratuities to be paid on board at approximately $13/person/day). We booked through Expedia which offered a $50 on board credit. In addition, I clicked through a shopping portal that should pay off significantly too.
I used 19,000 Jetblue miles plus spent $23 on taxes for a pair of round trip tickets to the port of departure. I got the miles from a credit card sign up bonus. Jetblue miles are easy to get if you have a Chase credit card that can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to the Ultimate Reward travel transfer partners.
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.
If you have a small business, you might qualify for the Chase Ink Preferred card offering 80,000 bonus points right now.
Groceries – $553:
We spent $553 on groceries. During October, Lidl took more than half of our grocery spend but we also shopped at Aldi, Super Walmart, Food Lion (a regional supermarket), and our local Asian grocery store.
Here’s a glimpse at our overall grocery shopping strategy. It doesn’t center around coupons at all.
I get asked about Costco a lot. Great way to save money? Not in our case. Costco is about 35-40% more expensive than Walmart, Lidl, and Aldi in our market. And that’s before factoring in the waste involved with a large package of a perishable good expiring before it’s fully consumed. Six heads of romaine lettuce rotting away in the back of the fridge, I’m looking at you.
Taxes – $400:
I paid $400 toward my 2019 estimated taxes to use up the Mastercard gift cards I bought at Staples.
Healthcare/Medical – $195:
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.
Since we don’t have dental insurance, we pay out of pocket. I visited the dentist for a routine cleaning and exam plus updates on my x-rays for $150.
The other $14 of healthcare spending was over the counter generic Zyrtec bought in bulk from Amazon.
Utilities – $164:
The city water, sewer, and trash bill was $140 for October.
The natural gas bill (for the water heater) totaled $24 for the month.
Several months ago I prepaid $600 on the electricity bill to hit the minimum spending requirement on a credit card. As a result, October utility charges didn’t include electric.
Restaurants – $76:
Restaurant spending in October was mostly buying gift cards for future use. Newegg had a promotion for $75 worth of Domino’s Pizza gift cards for $60. I also shop through Raise.com to routinely save 10-20% off restaurant gift cards (and they offer a $5 discount on your first order). We’ll use the Domino’s gift cards throughout the year.
The other $16 of restaurant spending was for a box of chicken and biscuits from Bojangles (Mrs. Root of Good’s favorite fried chicken place).
General Merchandise – $48:
We bought several household items at Walmart for $40.
Mrs. Root of Good put together a photo collage project on one of our living room walls and needed to print out a bunch of photos totaling $8. Good thing she’s retired! Her photo project is a good example of what early retirees do all day.
I was itching to order more stuff from Walmart just to use their automated package pickup kiosk. You scan your order summary email and seconds later your package appears in the slot in front of you and the glass shield retracts upward to allow package retrieval.
Jobs were eliminated. Costs were reduced. Packages are picked up quicker. The consumer wins again.
Learn how to design robots and program stuff, kids.
Cable/Satellite – $30:
Internet service is usually $15/month but I paid for two months in October. We qualify for a local reduced rate package due to having a lower income and having kids. 30 mbit/s download, 4 mbit/s upload.
Gas – $22:
$22 for half a tank of gas. We were prepping for a trip out of town in early November so I topped off the tank.
Education – $21:
We paid $21 in total for three field trips that our son’s second grade class will take during the school year.
Entertainment – $1:
A bell for my bike from Ebay for just under $1 shipped.
Total Spending in 2019
Through the end of October we have spent $21,019 which is approximately $12,300 under the $33,333 budgeted for the first ten months of our $40,000 annual early retirement budget.
With less than two months to go before the end of the year, it’s looking exceedingly likely that we will come in way under budget for 2019. We just booked a fun cruise on a whim to “help” us spend more money but there’s still a lot of money left in the budget.
Some of that will be consumed as we book our summer 2020 vacation, however the bulk of the early spending for that trip will be airlines miles already accumulated and Airbnb gift card credit we purchased in the past. We are hoping to spend somewhere around six or seven weeks in South America spread across Chile, Argentina, Peru, and Brazil.
The only other big planned expense for the remainder of 2019 is our annual property tax bill of around $1,700.
Monthly Expense Summary for 2019:
- January – $2,937
- February – $1,537
- March – $2,299
- April – $1,591
- May – $752
- June – $4,343
- July – $1,961
- August – $1,995
- September – $979
- October – $2,628
Summary of annual spending from all years of early retirement:
Net Worth: $2,167,000 (+$44,000)
We just wrapped up another month of strong net worth gains primarily driven by growth in the stock market. At $2,167,000, our net worth has reached a new all time high (and the gains keep coming in early November!).
Update on Life In General
I’m enjoying the slow pace of life that comes with early retirement. That’s not to say that I sit around all day doing nothing. Life is still pretty busy. Between the kids, Netflix, video games, riding my bike, reading, and planning our next several vacations, it all adds up to a full time job!
As I write this update, it’s been 2,268 days since I left full time employment. During that stretch of time, I can’t recall a single day that I was bored. There have certainly been brief periods of time that I felt listless and adrift for a moment when I had just wrapped up a big project or trip and needed to decide what I would pursue next.
So far, I’m losing the battle against my Netflix queue and my “books to read” list keeps growing in spite of concerted efforts to whittle down both of those. My Steam library of video games expands before I can play all of my old titles. Miles and miles of trails remain unexplored around home. I’ve visited around 30 countries but still have plenty more to see. It’s unlikely life will get boring any time soon. Which is perfect.
Ok, that’s it for this month’s little update. Enjoy the rest of November!
How is life so far this fall? Looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas?
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