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August '22 Savings

September 7th, 2022 at 03:30 am

Received $67 bank interest for the month of August.

Received $180 I Bond interest for the month of August.

 

Snowflakes to Investments:

--Redeemed $61 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card 

--Redeemed $70 cash back on Citi card

--Redeemed $8 on dining out/gas card 

 

Other Snowflakes to Investments:

+ $2 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

 

TOTAL: $141 Snowflakes to Investments

 

Snowball to Savings:

+$0 MH Income

 

401k Contributions/Match:

+$750

 

Savings (from my paycheck):

+$950 to cash (mid-term savings)

 

Pulled from mid-term savings:

-$472 Kids' Birthdays

-$300 New VR Quest

-$230 Senior Pictures

-$191 Movie/Script Stuff & Crowdfunding (pay it forward) 

 

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,500 to cash

-$  300 Dentist (MH & DL)

-$    60 Quicken (personal finance/accounting software)

 

Pulled from 'College Savings'

-$7,700 Tuition + Rent

 

TOTAL: -$5,665 Net Pulled from Cash/Investments

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Hybrid Miles Driven August:  860

Fuel Costs: $28 Electricity + $10 Gas (2 gallons)

(assumed 50 miles & 14 KwH per full charge)

Note: I needed gas to be able to remote start my vehicle (and to pre-cool the car in the afternoons).  2 gallons should last me for 12 months.

 

Electric (EV) Miles Driven August: 996

Fuel Costs: $21 (home) 

(assumed 300 miles & 60 KwH per full charge)

 

Most charging (both cars) is done at home or at free chargers.

Note:  Home charging rates are higher during summer months.

We did 105 miles of free charging this month. 

EV = free 105 miles @ animal shelter 

MH went to the Bay Area once.  After mostly being stuck in isolation for 2 weeks, I couldn't tell you why so many miles on the EV.  Maybe a second out of town trip that I don't remember??  Where the heck did MH go?  Oh yeah, he did also go up to the cabin twice (I remembered one cabin trip & MH reminded me of the second trip).  & ~80 miles going 2x to the animal shelter.  I didn't bother with the free charge the second time.  MH had plugged in and the battery was too full. 

I double checked electricity prices and they were more than I remember.  So this bumped up fuel costs this month.

Saw a crazy online discussion about EVs this week.  Just something new that I hadn't seen before, so was worth sharing.  Was seeing a lot of negative comments re: conserving energy during a heat wave.  When EV drivers replied that they just charge overnight (and don't pay peak $$$$ prices anyway)...  Got a lot of replies like, "Yeah right!" and "You have to wake up in the middle of the night to charge your car!?"  

I had wanted to correct some of the myths out there, and that was a new one.  So I thought I'd share.  Of course all these super computer cars have all this programmed.  But we are pretty low tech.  Our charger just has a delay button that we push.  We choose how many hours we want to delay before the charging starts (and push the button X times, accordingly).  That's it. 

& of course, the EV has a big battery that stores electricity.  MH is charging every other weekend.  Even that is mostly excessive, but the point for us is more to just have a habit and not think about it.  (In addition to working around my more frequent weeknight hybrid charging; we only have one charger).  There's no need to be constantly charging an electric car.  

Edit:  I started this post a few days ago.  The news headlines are getting more weird and fear mongering by the day.  Just saw a headline that CA EV drivers have to walk while it's 110F degrees this week.  🙄  It literally says that in the headline, of some big reputable new channel.  This "news" is garbage.  

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Note:  I am always lagging a month behind because any bills charged in July will be paid off August 1 and reflected in my August numbers.  I charge in one month and the next month I figure out how to pay for everything (if I need to pull anything from savings).  So this update reflects July spending & August savings.

Holy cow, look at that interest.  Interest rates just keep going up in our bank accounts.  Our I Bond rate goes up significantly after September.

MH lost two weeks of work re: COVID.  Thus, short ~$700 that we were expecting this month.

This was the spendy no-work month that I alluded to in my July update. (The below is all July spending paid for in August).

The VR Quest 2 went on sale suddenly for 25% off.  MH could not resist that.  I do like the VR too but with my motion sickness tendency I never got too into it.  We have an older Sony VR helmet, so it's not our first VR setup. 

When MM(19) did senior pictures, they didn't do the tux (shared clothing) pictures due to COVID.  & he was too cheap to pay for the cap & gown sitting.  I really wanted to murder him when he told me that. 😁  They clearly phoned it in (with the $0 sitting fee) and we were not interested in any of the pictures.  For DL(17), *we* were able to sign up for him (we didn't tell him he had a choice) and we had to drive him over there.  So he did the cap & gown sitting.  I like this photographer better.  Liked.  Have been able to spend $10-$15 on pictures in the past.  But the senior photos were *ridiculous*.  Like $600 for their most basic package.  I cobbled something together. If DL was another kid, I'd just ask my Dad to do some photos.  But...  We are lucky that DL was a good sport.  I just bought some wallets and scanned them.  We can ponder re-doing photos later, depending on his mood.  The $200 was "DL may never sit for photos again" insurance.  At least the photos were professional and good. 

In the end, August (ignoring college expense) was pretty similar dollar-wise to July.  But the rub was the bigger mid-term savings deductions in August.  If it's coming out of mid-term, it's because I am drawing down "longer term" savings to pay for things.  & that is more "ouch". 

(If it's truly "long term", it's invested.  So is why I use the term mid-term instead, when it comes to cash savings.)  

July '22 Savings

August 7th, 2022 at 12:46 am

Received $50 bank interest for the month of July.

Received $180 I Bond interest for the month of July.

 

Snowflakes to Investments:

--Redeemed $48 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card 

--Redeemed $70 cash back on Citi card

--Redeemed $7 on dining out/gas card

 

Other Snowflakes to Investments:

+ $4 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

 

TOTAL: $129 Snowflakes to Investments

 

401k Contributions/Match:

+$750

 

Savings (from my paycheck):

+$950 to cash (mid-term savings)

 

Pulled from mid-term savings:

-$250 College Dining Plan (Fall 2022)

-$100 Animal Shelter Donation (matched by friend)

-$130 New Side Table

 

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,500 to cash

-$  175 Dentist

-$  150 Amazon Prime

-$  125 Clothing for DL

-$  110 50th Anniversay Dinner

-$  100 Transportation home from college (MM + stuff)

-$    78 Pest Control

-$    58 Smog check on kids' car 

-$    30 Vacation Expenses (camp)

 

TOTAL: $2,253 Deposited to Cash and Investments

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Hybrid Miles Driven July:  810

Fuel Costs: $26 Electricity 

(assumed 50 miles & 14 KwH per full charge)

Includes 20 *free* miles 

 

Electric (EV) Miles Driven July: 867

Fuel Costs: $14 (home) + $11 (out)

(assumed 300 miles & 60 KwH per full charge)

 

Most charging (both cars) was done at home or at free chargers.

Note:  Home charging rates are higher during summer months.

We did 170 miles of free charging this month. 

Hybrid = free 20 miles @ animal shelter

EV = free 120 miles @ animal shelter & Free 30 miles @ movie theater

We ended up doing a couple of Bay Area drives to help our parents out.  We only need a quick top off to get home, but for whatever reason MH stayed at a charger for about an hour.  He decided to stop and eat dinner, and I guess there was a long line at the bathroom.  It may have been 45 minutes.  We paid for about 100 miles between that and a quick 5-minute charge on the way home (earlier trip).

I tried the free Volta fast charger that is a few miles from the animal shelter.  O.M.G.  It was the easiest fast charger I had ever used.  & it's nice to not be sitting alone in the middle of nowhere.  I got about 60 miles out of a 30-minute charge.  (Would have been more if I went with a more depleted battery versus mostly full battery).  The round trip drive is about 50 miles (with the drive to the charger) so that worked out pretty well.  There was a free Level 2 charger right next to the free fast charger (30 minute limit), so I just moved over to the slower Level 2 when I was done.  

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Note:  I am always lagging a month behind because any bills charged in June will be paid off July 1 and reflected in my July numbers.  I charge in one month and the next month I figure out how to pay for everything (if I need to pull anything from savings).  So this update reflects June spending & July savings.

Re: I Bonds, I threw another $10K into a trust account.  I won't be able to do the last $10K until January 1.

MH is off work for the summer, so it's just my paycheck for July and August. 

I had a last minute mid-term savings deduction when I paid cash (venmo) to the animal shelter for a dog who needs a very expensive surgery.  My friend was matching donations.  But July already paid and done (the first of the month) I just pulled from longer-term savings.  If I could have thrown it on the credit card, I'd maybe have been able to cash flow.  Our grocery spending has been unexpectedly low this month.

July was spendy (will sort out in August).  We had a lot going on.  So I think we are through the worst of it.  At least MH should have a paycheck in September, if we need to cover any August spending.

By some miracle, grocery expenses were very low this month.  ???  I thought I'd be more able to offset excessive spending (which will show up in August update).  But things were pretty tight, even with the low grocery spend month.  We have a very solid pattern of spending less when busy with work.  July spending (will sort out in August) was the first month this year I just couldn't balance and don't know what happened.  Clearly spending more with the working less.  Even with the 'breathing room' and low grocery month, the math just didn't work. 

I eventually got it to balance.  & MH was called back to work so it's moot.  I don't know how busy it will be but he will be paid for 1 week? in August.  

I guess that means July will be our only one-income month this year.  This is my July update.  It was pretty benign and everything balanced (income - savings/investments - expenses = $0).  August will be more ugly with the over-spending *and* college bills due.  One small unexpected paychedck will help.

As of July 31, no word on scholarships for MM(19).  It sounds like we won't know 100% until August is over.  After tuition is paid. 

June '22 Savings

July 17th, 2022 at 05:50 pm

Received $38 bank interest for the month of June.

Received $120 I Bond interest for the month of June.

 

Snowflakes to Investments:

--Redeemed $39 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card 

--Redeemed $69 cash back on Citi card

--Redeemed $7 on dining out/gas card

 

Other Snowflakes to Investments:

+ $8 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

+ $9 Rounding (to reach an even $1K for first 6 months of year)

 

TOTAL: $132 Snowflakes to Investments

 

401k Contributions/Match:

+$935

 

Snowball to Savings:

+$1,175 MH Income

+    340 MH Extra Paycheck (worked way later into June than usual)

-     340 Dryer Repair

 

Savings (from my paycheck):

+$950 to cash (mid-term savings)

 

Pulled from mid-term savings:

-$200 Movie Expenses (Film Festival Submissions, etc.)

-$120 New Dishes

 

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,500 to cash

-$  240 50th Anniversary Gift

-$  200 Vacation Spending (Monterey)

-$  105 Misc Spending

-$    55 Field Trip/School Expenses

 

TOTAL: $3,930 Deposited to Cash and Investments

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Hybrid Miles Driven June:  680

Fuel Costs: $22 Electricity 

(assumed 50 miles & 14 KwH per full charge)

 

Electric (EV) Miles Driven June: 910

Fuel Costs: $19 (home) + $7 (out)

(assumed 300 miles & 60 KwH per full charge)

 

Most charging (both cars) was done at home or at free chargers.

Note:  Higher summer rates kicked in this month (home charging)

We did 60 miles of free charging this month. 

Did a separate post due to longer update.

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Note:  I am always lagging a month behind because any bills charged in May will be paid off June 1 and reflected in my June numbers.  I charge in one month and the next month I figure out how to pay for everything (if I need to pull anything from savings).  So this update reflects May spending & June savings.

Note:  I Bond interest hit because we got past 3-month penalty time period ($0 interest).  

Big Picture: Emergency fund is funded. Cash set aside for college rent next year.  Remaining cash = $5,000.  Most of that excess was clearly built up this month.

I know we will very likely have $3K in medical bills this year (our deductible).  & would like more buffer for some of the more foreseen.  Home maintenance is the obvious.  In addition, starting to save for junior year college costs, with a general plan to spend sophomore year saving up for the last bit of expenses we expect for MM college.   So there will be some overlap while we have extra funds for multiple school years.  

{This does not include I Bonds, which are loosely earmarked for college expenses.  Or gifted college funds.  We have a few buckets to pull college expenses from.}

July is kind of "meh" and August is going to be deep in the red.  Could maybe squeak by in the black otherwise, but MH is off work, I have the biggest mouth to feed, and tuition/rent will be due in August.  In addition to some other bigger expenses we've already run up (that will be paid off in August). 

I still have *no idea* what our college costs will be next year.  I've heard that scholarships sort out in July, so we should find out soon.

{We were okay with the one-time scholarship because it's a very inexpensive school.  We will need to pull $2K for tuition in the fall, if MM gets -$0 scholarships.}

I peeked at the big big picture recently and we were down $30K.  I feel very *shrugs* about "the stock market being where it was just a year ago."  But am also very happy with stock/bond/cash mix.  Hint: never bought into going all-in on the stock market, which became very popular during very long bull market run. 

There's that, and also in the accumulation stage it is much better to buy lower.  I welcome the rare chance to buy stocks at a discount. 

I am bracing for a bumpier ride.  Non-fussed about it in the moment, but clearly hear the alarm bells and am bracing for the eventual bumpier ride.  

Edit:  I just realized I needed $9 to reach 1/2 our snowflake investment goal for the year.  I just threw $9 to that.  $1,000 of $2,000 invested, for the year. 

May '22 Savings

June 11th, 2022 at 03:36 pm

Received $26 bank interest for the month of May.

Received -$0- I Bond interest for the month of May (will kick in next month).

 

Snowflakes to Investments:

--Redeemed $40 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card 

--Redeemed $76 cash back on Citi card

--Redeemed $6 on dining out/gas card

 

Other Snowflakes to Investments:

+ $2 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

 

TOTAL: $124 Snowflakes to Investments

 

401k Contributions/Match:

+$900

 

Snowball to Savings:

+$1,400 MH Income

-$ 300 Donation to DL(16)'s school

-$ 100 Graduation Gift (niece)

 

Savings (from my paycheck):

+$950 to cash (mid-term savings)

 

Pulled from mid-term savings:

-$950 Movie Expenses (Premier Party, Film Festival Submissions, etc.)

-$585 Drivers Ed

-$180 Show Tickets

-$120 Crowd Funding (paying it forward)

 

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,500 to cash

-$  150 School Band concerts & field trips

-$  144 DMV Renewal (Kids' car)

-$  100 State Tax E-file (x5)

-$   80 Oil Change (hybrid) 

-$   78 Pest Control

 

TOTAL: $2,112 Deposited to Cash and Investments

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Hybrid Miles Driven May:  645

Fuel Costs: $16 Electricity 

(assumed 50 miles & 14 KwH per full charge)

 

Electric (EV) Miles Driven May: 1,146

Fuel Costs: $16 (home) + $25 (out)

(assumed 300 miles & 60 KwH per full charge)

 

Most charging (both cars) was done at home.

We did -0-? miles of free charging this month.  I don't recall any free charging.

We did plan about 300-ish miles of free charging for our bigger road trip last last weekend but as I mentioned in my last post we turned around because DL(16) was ill.  It wasn't well planned and we just stopped wherever.  

I am racking my brain because I thought we were out of town every week in May but I just figured it out.  

Week 1 San Jose ~ that was April 30th

Week 2 San Francisco ~ we took the train

Week 3 Bay Area ~ DL(16) had a band event but it wasn't far enough to warrant a stop/charge

Week 4 So Cal ~ spent $25 at chargers

June will be more of the same. 

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Note:  I am always lagging a month behind because any bills charged in April will be paid off May 1 and reflected in my May numbers.  I charge in one month and the next month I figure out how to pay for everything (if I need to pull anything from savings).  So this update reflects April spending & May savings.

I expect that this is the last DMV renewal I should be paying for the kids' car.  MM(18) will be back this month covering all expenses for summer (he has a job/summer commute).  Probably a small gap after that but DL(16) should be licensed and taking over the car expenses this fall.  MH and I covered some of the car expenses while MM(18) wasn't using the car and DL(16) didn't even have a permit.  I am happy to cross that extra expense off my list soon.

The donation to DL(16)'s school is somewhat required (in the form of either money or time).  I would have done some of this in December but the website was not working and I could not make donations.  Because of the large chunk, I just took it out of MH's income.  We probably skipped the past couple of years (in the craziness), and just have one more year left.  Something else that I can cross of my list soon-ish. 

The hybrid does need an oil change once every 2 years.  It was time.  Given that this is really our only vehicle maintenance expense and a more specialized car, we just went to the dealership ($$$$$).  

& then driver's ed...  The place we used for MM(18) raised their prices significantly.  It was only $300 before?  This is not a universal price increase.  It was just this one place that raised rates, but they still had amazing reviews (throug the pandemic) and we were really happy with them.  So I bit the bullet.  After the first drive, I am happy with this decision.  Would pay any amount of money to get DL(16) more comfortable with driving.  (Happy to say that it is paying off).

This should be the last big month for MH's movie expenses.  Future expenses will mostly be travel, if he gets into more festivals.

I e-filed taxes for everyone (better and more secure).  Did you hear that the IRS tossed 300 million "information returns" (e.g. W2s & 1099s) without processing them? 😱  I am skeptical that's all they threw away, given the bajillion IRS notices at work re: multiple paper filed entities (corporate and partnership tax returns).  This is on top of my snail mail ID theft I experienced 10+ years ago.  I chose to just e-file this year even if it was more expensive (than just paper filing with a postage stamp).  Our parents are very generous and GMIL is broke, and so I never in a million years would ask them to pay for any of this.  I filed tax returns for them and the kids.  (I've always just e-filed our own tax return, but have snail mailed a kids' 2-page tax return in the past).

MH bought tickets to a show.  We have since discussed two other concerts but they were just too hard to justify financially.   I moved those to the "nevermind" column category.   Both were kind of "would be fun," but not $200 fun.  Nothing we were very passionate about.

April '22 Savings

May 14th, 2022 at 01:59 pm

Received $25 bank interest for the month of April.

 

Snowflakes to Investments:

--Redeemed $33 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card 

--Redeemed $96 cash back on Citi card

--Redeemed $3 on dining out/gas card

 

Other Snowflakes to Investments:

+ $10 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

 

TOTAL: $142 Snowflakes to Investments

 

401k Contributions/Match:

+$890

 

Snowball to Savings:

+$1,300 MH Income

 

Savings (from my paycheck):

+$950 to cash (mid-term savings)

 

Pulled from mid-term savings:

-$365 Movie Expenses (Film Festival Submissions, copyright new script, etc.)

 

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,500 to cash

-$  941 Auto Insurance

-$  500 Life Insurance

-$  253 Annual DMV Registration (EV)

-$  300 Dentist

-$  386 Medical 

-$  200 Misc Expenses for MM(18)

-$    25 Driving Course for DL (16)

 

TOTAL: $1,837 Deposited to Cash and Investments

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Hybrid Miles Driven April:  715

Fuel Costs: $19 Electricity 

 

Electric (EV) Miles Driven April: 1,185

Fuel Costs: $22 (home) + $6 (out)

Most charging (both cars) was done at home or at free chargers.

We got about 70 miles of free charging this month.  We just got lucky.  We went out to a park and a restaurant one weekend, and they both just happened to have free charging. 

We did also do a Bay Area trip (Easter) with -0- fuel stops.

For the Easter trip, we got home with about -0- miles to spare.  It was a little stressful and I had heard that like a gas car there is still 20 miles left at that point.  But afterwards I read that isn't necessarily the case.  Who knows.   Logically we still had plenty of buffer to get home, even if the car computer decided to freak us out during the last couple of miles.  The miles guesstimate was being a little glitchy.

Accordingly, we decided to err on the safe side and just stop to charge when we went to visit our parents last weekend.  It was probably completely unnecessary.  But I also wanted to scope out more chargers.  In this case, the most convenient stop was at another Outlet (where we usually stop; lots of chargers, food and bathrooms.  So makes a good pit stop).  I am glad we did because by then it was after hours (around 9pm) and I can see I would never feel comfortable going there alone.  In an abandoned/dark parking lot at night.  There is a charger right by my parent's house and I can see it's just wise to stop there for a quick top off.  It's at a grocery store and is probably always bustling.  Those chargers are out front and not hidden in the back like a lot of these chargers are.

We stopped for 5 minutes, spent $1.55, and added about 20 miles to our range.  

In the end, we drove 260 miles and had 30 miles left when we got home.  The buffer was probably not necessary, but it's around the 10-mile mark that the car freaks out and tells you that you need to charge ASAP.  We saved ourselves some stress.

We did also pay $4 for a monthly Electrifty America (EA) pass (which I included in fuel costs above).  With the extra $4 you do get a discount on charging that has always been worth it.  But as EA informed me we saved $0.60 on this one charge (the only one we paid for this month), I told MH I didn't think we need to pay the $4 any more.  We are going to keep it for May because we are going on a long trip.  One big charge/refuel will pay for the $4 (in savings).  But it's clear that we will no longer get any benefit out of this for anything but longer road trips.  So we will cancel that after our May road trip.  Er, after June.  I guess we will be picking up MM(18) from college in June.  After that, we can just activate/pay the monthly pass on months that we know we will be traveling 300+ miles (one trip).  Maybe the breakeven point is 400 or 500 miles but we just don't do anything in between.  (The college is a 600 mile round trip; Bay Area trips are generally 250-300 miles).

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Note:  I am always lagging a month behind because any bills charged in March will be paid off April 1 and reflected in my April numbers.  I charge in one month and the next month I figure out how to pay for everything (if I need to pull anything from savings).  So this update reflects March spending & April savings.

I ended up being way too nice to MM(18) when he was here for spring break.  His very liquid cash reserves are getting "low".  Relatively, getting on the lower side.  He needed some nicer headphones but picked out a higher end pair.  I just bought them.  To be fair, I tried to put new running shoes on his credit card (told him we'd sort it out later, based on how jobs shake out for him) but I was unable to put it on his credit card and use MH's REI member discount.  So I gave up and just paid for those too.  In addition to paying for gas for the car, MM(18) was spoiled rotten.

But things are going well on this front.  MM(18) told us at Easter that he has a job for the fall quarter.  It's a TA type position that pays $1,200.  Will be a few hours per week.  That should cover his spending next year, so that was a nice surprise.  (He's only spent $500-ish the last 8 months on campus.  With all food/transportation/extra-curricular mostly provided.  $750 if I throw in the spending I did for him this month.). 

& then it sounded like he got the summer engineering job.  Just talked to him and it sounds like no formal offer yet?   But it's close.  & he already has a lead on another internship *and* an undergrad research project (2 years).  The research project would be $1,700 his junior year (another year of spending money).  Summer jobs will get him a car paid for in cash.  (He already has about $6,000 to that end, it's just tied up in mega high yield savings accounts). 

I expect the extra spending on MM(18) to be very one-off.  

I've already locked in May Spending.  The breathing room is working.  MH has had some weeks of a full working schedule and we haven't tapped any of his income to cover any expenses (for months).  So that is working out nicely.   I'd say that it should be an easy transition to summer (no second income) but maybe not if I am feeding MM(18) during summer months.  I suppose we've had extra extra breathing room with the lower grocery expenses during the school year (one less mouth to feed).   <----I haven't done anything with grocery savings.  2021 was total chaos and we are doing terrible on the food waste front.  But it's hard with how much MM(18) is home and trying to go back and forth between extremes.  Hoping we have the time/energy to be more food efficient in the fall.  

The bigger picture...  We've never had more than $50-$100/month in our budget for misc, spending (things like clothes, haircuts, eating out, allowance spending, whatever random spending might come up in a month that isn't very fixed and predictable).  I put myself through college, we saved up for a down payment in San Francisco (saved 70% of our income for a time), then we dropped our income in half to have kids.  This level of spending is all I know as an adult.  But this year I bumped the misc. spending up to $275/month, and yes we do have some extra extra wiggle room with the grocery savings.

Some bigger picture comments on this:  I was reluctant to increase spending because an extra $100/month spending means an extra $30K to save for retirement (presuming a 4% withdrawal rate).  Financial independence is what is important to us, and I am not too keen to move the needle.  But I also had some unexpected raises and a lot of conversations last year about being too retirement heavy.  So I do think it was prudent to relax our budget a little bit.  (Certainly nothing I ever expected *while* putting our kids through college. I was envisioning 5-ish years of keeping it tight and then, "I'd rather work less than spend more.").

We've enjoyed the extra breathing room, but we quickly abandoned our plans to fit more eating out into our budget.  I've always said that I notice eating out on the scale before I notice it in the checkbook.  I don't care if I order a salad with no dressing.  It's an extra 1,000 calories in a restaurant.  (I am exaggerating, but is how it feels).  This is extremely noticeable when you have spent decades eating mostly home cooked meals.  We've scaled back to 0-1 extra meals out per month.  

In the end, MH and I went to a local college arboretum a couple of weekends ago (completely free) and it was *amazing*.  I'd rather just go back there and have a picnic.  I feel like we have gone full circle.

That is how I am feeling for the moment.  Will just be my income for summer months (plus MM(18) home emptying the fridge and cupboards of all of our food), so it's a good minset for summer.  

This is probably 90% of why financial independence is getting so close for us.  I'd rather just read library books and go have a picnic in the park.  MH is good with the unlimited movie pass.  (He will literally go to the movies every single day).  The electric car is probably one of our biggest frugal wins.  Getting to anywhere just doesn't cost anything at this point.  We have Bay Area trips every weekend this month and that's just going to be *shrugs* financially. 

March '22 Savings

April 10th, 2022 at 02:31 pm

Received $23 bank interest for the month of March.

 

Snowflakes to Investments:

--Redeemed $46 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card 

--Redeemed $83 cash back on Citi card

--Redeemed $6 on dining out/gas card (bought some gas for MM)

 

Other Snowflakes to Investments:

+ $7 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

 

TOTAL: $142 Snowflakes to Investments

 

401k Contributions/Match:

+$940

 

Snowball to Savings:

+$1,550 MH Income

+$300 (for doing GMIL taxes)

 

Savings (from my paycheck):

+$1,050 to cash (mid-term savings)

 

Pulled from mid-term savings:

-$1,700 New Mattress 

-$  350 Movie Editor (payment for finished movie!)

 

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,500 to cash

 

TOTAL: $3,455 Deposited to Cash and Investments

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Hybrid Miles Driven March:  903

Fuel Costs: $24 Electricity 

 

Electric (EV) Miles Driven March: 775

Fuel Costs: $16

Note:  I don't recall any free charging this month. 

All charging (both cars) was done at home or at free chargers.

We did a Bay Area trip and didn't have to stop to charge.  !!  Without the crazy (below average) temps, we got a better range estimate.  We got a 277-mile range.  Drove 253 miles and still had an estimate of 24 miles left when we got home.  MH cut it closer on his last winter Bay Area drive (he did not stop to fuel that time either).  But this was the closest I had cut it (I was driving).  Since getting the hybrid and tracking more, I'd say our average Bay Area trip is 250 miles.  This means a 2x gas stop trip is now a 0x fuel stop trip.  (We received a bigger battery due to a recall, so this means more range on the car than what we originally purchased).  We always filled up on the way out and then stopped on the way home (gas cars) so we had gas for the work week.  It's divine not having to stop for fuel at all.

With MH back at work, we've figured out a charging groove.  As expected, I charge every night (for my commute) & MH is just charging his car up on the weekends.  This is for overnight (lower rate) charging.  We can both always charge whenever if we need more miles.  & clearly every weekend is way more than MH needs to charge. (He's getting about 350 miles per charge, with more daily driving and more stop-and-go).  But it's nice to have a habit set, and to not expend any mental energy re: car fuel.  I don't miss the days of schlepping to the gas station. 

 

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Note:  I am always lagging a month behind because any bills charged in February will be paid off March 1 and reflected in my March numbers.  I charge in one month and the next month I figure out how to pay for everything (if I need to pull anything from savings).  So this update reflects February spending & March savings.

This is what I wrote last month, which sums it up pretty well:

February ended up being a really good month and will be reflected by mega savings numbers in March.  Even with the purchase of a new mattress, March should go way the other way with more savings than spending.  

I was able to bump up my paycheck savings to $950/month with raise.  Added an extra $100 with retroactive pay adjustment (to catch up February).

GMIL always insists on slipping me $300 for doing her taxes.  She won't take no for an answer.  I probably usually somewhat count on this money.  Whereas this year the thought hadn't even crossed my mind and it was a surprise.  Probably just because I am not even used to MH being back at work and having all this extra money.  It's just extra extra money, at this point.  

I received this money the same day that we got the final edit for MH's movie project.  So that works our pretty nicely.  The final payment to the editor was $350.  Almost a wash.  

I Bonds were purchased this month.  It ended up being pretty fast/easy to set up. But I won't be reflecting interest numbers for three months.  We won't get any interest for first 3 months, because there is a '3 month interest penalty' if you redeem before first 5 years.  I will just wait until the interest $$ reflects on the I Bond value (starting July 1).  It will be 7%+ on $20,000 so will be a big boost to my interest numbers, the second half of the year.  & I am moving money over from investments, so this will be in addition to the cash interest we already have.  (I had some "cash" in my investment account basically earning nothing.  Want it very liquid because this is either going to be college money or 'next home down payment' money, presumably all spent in the next few years.) 

I cashed out this college money in late 2020 ($20,000).  Should have bought these I Bonds in November 2021 when interest rates hit 7%+.  & would have been wise to have taken advantage of 3%+ interest rates last May.  But I think 7%+ is what is pushing this to the no-brainer category.  It's getting my attention.  Making its way through the murky "I don't have the mental energy to deal with ANYTHING".  I might have been more on top of in better times.  But *this* is getting my attention now.

I can see that if rates stay high for a while that I may just consider this money to be emergency funds instead.  If we'd rather spend down 0.50%-interest cash in the short term.  & leave higher interest I Bond money untouched. 

March spending is done and paid for, so I have a good idea of how April numbers will shake out.   We somehow ended up net positive after a lot of expenses (a lot of insurance came due, some medical expenses, etc.).   The overall goal is to get some of these festival submission fees paid and movie stuff paid for while MH is working (out of his income).  He has the summers off.  

I still don't have much clarity on the college front for next school year.  They doled out scholarships to incoming freshman in March, but now I am hearing that we might not hear about scholarships until July, after grades post (for non-freshman).  So my mode right now is to just hoard money for college and movie stuff, and see how much we can hoard before summer when our income is reduced.   I do think we are about done getting MM(18)'s college paid for (even if he never gets another scholarship or gift).  Would just be nice to have more clarity on that front, so we can work on bigger picture planning and know if we have more freedom to move on to other financial goals.  If we know that we aren't going to touch his gifted college money ($30K), that is also just more financial pressure off of us for more long-term planning.   Just as an example, he's starting to talk about getting a car next summer.  If he has mega paying summer jobs and scholarships, we aren't going to sweat helping him with that.  If he doesn't get a big job this summer and he doesn't get a single scholarship, then we might want to come up with a few thousand dollars to help him.  Just stuff like that.  Is why it matters, even if we have full sticker price money set aside already.   & any money he doesn't need for college, is money that is already saved for DL(16) college, which is our next big financial goal.  So yeah, I am looking forward to more clarity.

Feb '22 Savings

March 5th, 2022 at 05:36 pm

Received $25 bank interest for the month of February.

 

Snowflakes to Investments:

--Redeemed $37 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card 

--Redeemed $85 cash back on Citi card

--Redeemed $6 on dining out card

 

Other Snowflakes to Investments:

+ $4 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

 

TOTAL: $132 Snowflakes to Investments

 

401k Contributions/Match:

+$800

 

Snowball to Savings:

+$600 MH Income

 

Savings (from my paycheck):

+$850 to cash (mid-term savings)

 

Pulled from mid-term savings:

-$5,719 College Expenses

- $500 More College Expenses

- $600 Mattress  (used MH's income towards a new mattress)

 

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,500 to cash

+$  175 Insurance Rebate**

-$1,380 Various Insurance

-$  260 Dentist

-$  266 Annual DMV Registration (Hybrid)

-$   80 Miscellaneous

 

TOTAL: -$4,723 Net Withdrawn from Cash and Investments

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Hybrid Miles Driven February:  704

Fuel Costs: $20 Electricity 

Note:  I'd estimate my commute at 800 miles per month.  Short month and a couple of days off.

Electric (EV) Miles Driven February: 486

Fuel Costs: $14

Note:  I don't recall any free charging this month. 

We also didn't have an opportunity yet to test out the bigger battery on a longer drive.

All charging (both cars) was done at home or at free chargers.  

Note:  I haven't noticed any gas price changes in months.  Whenever it comes up online, I look at Gas Buddy.  I think as with many things, prices are already high here and so are slow to change.  I share because in the last day our gas prices went up 50-cents per gallon!  At the super cheapie gas stations we frequent(ed).  Last night I thought it was a typo or maybe premium gas, but the other gas station shot up 40-cents today.  So it's official, our gas prices are getting crazy now. 

Of course, I don't want to pay even $4/gallon (much less $5/gallon) for my commute, which is why we bought the hybrid in the first place.  

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**Insurance rebate was for disability & life insurance through professional association.  The annual rebate was much lower than usual.  I presumed that is due to the pandemic.  I later got an email confirming this.  More life insurance claims last year.

Note:  I am always lagging a month behind because any bills charged in January will be paid off February 1 and reflected in my February numbers.  I charge in one month and the next month I figure out how to pay for everything (if I need to pull anything from savings). So this update reflects January spending & February savings. 

This is mostly how it goes but I have two exceptions for this month:

1 - DMV.  Ugh!  After many many years of accepting credit card payments with no charge, they switched to charging a fee for payments.  This was before the pandemic?  Keep hoping they switch back and surprised they have not yet.  This bill is not due for a couple of months but I don't want to keep track of it, I just want to get it paid.  So I had to move money for this cash expense.  Paid in February.  Couldn't just charge it and pay it off next month.

2 - College Expenses.  Have to pay cash.  Again, could have paid later but I prefer to pay a couple of weeks early and to just pay the quarter in full (versus dealing with more frequent payments).

College Expenses: Paid for final quarter of freshman year.  This is roughly $730 tuition (will be completely offset by college tax credit) + $3K rent + $2K food. 

After that was done, MM(18) pinned me down to pay a $500 deposit for housing sophomore year.  I knew that was due soon, but thought I might have a couple of weeks of breather.  This is the only deposit I have to pay for next year?  Nothing else should be due until September. 

College Big Picture: 

A - I have money set aside to cover rent next year. 

B - Gifted funds are set aside for tuition, if needed.  Worst case sticker price is $20K for remainder of 4-year degree (tuition/fees).  MM(18) has $27K gifted funds.

C - We do also have $20K set aside to cover rent for last two years.  & we are still working towards saving college money for the next 16 months (basically spending sophomore year saving up for MM's junior year).   This is just in a "prepare for the worst" vein and our final contribution before we shift focus to DL(16)'s college expenses.

D - Waiting for scholarships & MM's summer job to sort out for more financial clarity.   

Another Note:  MH had a lot of time off work this month (just slow at work, plus some seasonal time off).    

I did throw MH's one paycheck towards the mattress; his March paychecks will pay for (most of) the rest of the mattress.  That and my raise should do it.  (I've already paid off the credit card, so technically just paying ourselves back in March).

February ended up being a really good month and will be reflected by mega savings numbers in March.  Even with the purchase of a new mattress, March should go way the other way with more savings than spending.  It was nice to enjoy some rare breathing room we put in our budget this year, so it felt a little splurge-y while also being able to keep aggressive savings goals.  I am sure the short month helped, and also just nothing really came up (by some miracle!?).  

 

January '22 Savings

February 2nd, 2022 at 04:04 pm

Received $27 bank interest for the month of January.

 

Snowflakes to Investments:

--Redeemed $32 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card 

--Redeemed $97 cash back on Citi card

--Redeemed $15 on dining out card (also used for groceries)

 

Other Snowflakes to Investments:

+ $15 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

 

TOTAL: $159 Snowflakes to Investments

 

401k Contributions/Match:

+$515

 

Snowball to Savings:

+$375 MH Income

 

Savings (from my paycheck):

+$800 to cash (mid-term savings)

 

Pulled from mid-term savings:

-$215 Medical Expenses

-$180 Target Gift cards on Sale

 

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,500 to cash

-$1,100 Home Insurance

-$ 630 Dentist

-$ 290 Auto Insurance (Kid Car) ~ paying for this while MM(18) is away and DL is not licensed

-$  78 Pest Control

TOTAL: $883 Deposited to Cash and Investments

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Hybrid Miles Driven January:  668 

Fuel Costs: $12 Electricity 

Note:  Extra low fuel month because this is net of $11 work auto reimbursement (for driving 19 miles).  

Electric (EV) Miles Driven January: 1,392

Fuel Costs: $20

Note:  EV includes 500 free miles.  MH was able to get free electric charging when driving MM(18) back to college after New Years (we paid for the fill up before and after, at home).  In addition, MH got 50 free miles (x2) at the movie theater. 

All charging (both cars) was done at home or at free chargers.  

MH was able to do a roundtrip Bay Area drive without stopping to fuel.  (We got a newer/bigger battery due to recall and so the car has more range now).  I expect this will be easier the rest of the year but was cutting it close in winter.  Range is reduced in colder temps.

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I stopped doing these updates in 2020.  I don't remember why. 

Since I am not blogging very much I decided to go back to this format.  At the least, I can do a monthly snapshot.   & I will add the driving data now that we are mostly driving electric.  With rare exceptions, we are driving all-electric at this point. 

Notes:  I am always lagging a month behind because any bills charged in December will be paid off January 1 and reflected in my January numbers.  I charge in one month and the next month I figure out how to pay for everything (if I need to pull anything from savings).  So this update reflects December spending & January savings, if that makes sense.

UGH, January was terrible on the spending/savings front.  But I suppose it was complicated by only receiving one paycheck in January and executing new 2021 budget with only one paycheck (of raise).  February might even out with the shorter month.  It's just a bummer we didn't utilize MH's high income month and save most of his income, but we had too many expenses.  I think I am just feeling too much squeeze.  The pendulum clearly swung after him being off work (no unemployment) for 6 months and just starting to feel like he may actually have a job this year.  So there were a lot of purchases that we felt we could do.  But on the flip side of the coin he is off work now and I don't expect any MH income for February.  I have paid bills through 2/28, presuming no extra income.  So it's a little squeeze on both ends.

We spent way too much on dining out, purchased some clothing and pet items, and also bought a set of pots and pans.  My future self will thank me though.  I probably would have bought just a couple of sauce pans, but I found a nice set for $250 and am keeping the rest for MM(18).  He will have a kitchen/apartment next school year. 

My primary goal is to hoard more cash for college.  We have next 18 months mostly covered.  But of course, want to be more ahead of the curve.  And/or have extra funds for anything else that might happen.  

Secondary goal is funding MH's movie.  It just came up over the weekend.  Will probably pay $350 to the editor this month.  As the movie wraps up, talking about doing a screening party.  Not sure how that will end up but I am encouraging MH to just go all out for that.  To-date we haven't spent any of our own money and we can probably consider the screening a gift from his grandfather.  & then there's talk of festivals and travel, but I think we can absorb a lot of that (frugally) in our (small) vacation budget. 

These are the two big things we want to hoard some cash for. 

If I seem a little blindsided by the movie (less prepared), it's been infinitely jinxed and delayed.  So it is very sudden that there's talk of wrapping it up, and will see if it does actually wrap up in the next couple of months.  🤞 

Today is payday.  Already paid the rest of the February bills (with float).  But needed my paycheck to pay off the big credit card.  We like to pay everything ahead and basically start the beginning of each month debt free.  So I will pay off that credit card right now.  I set all my credit cards to a monthly cycle and just pay them all off the first of every month.  None of this "waiting for statements and due dates" nonsense.  But the monthly credit card cycle is how I have to do it for my accountant brain.  That, and also managing multiple credit cards.  This just keeps it very simple.

Note:  Now that MM(18) has multiple credit cards, I should probably teach him this trick.  You just set the due date so that the card runs for roughly a monthly cycle.  If it closes a couple of days before the end of the month is best.  You can always prepay the charges for the last few days of days of the month.  All my credit cards close around the 28th of every month. 

Our taxes are done.  Just waiting for software updates so that I can file.

2021 Goals Met

January 17th, 2022 at 03:49 am

I am memorializing goals in my sidebar.  Unfortunately, this site is not allowing me to just cut and paste my sidebar goals.  So whatever, will just put some in another format and type it out.  

Pay cash for college 

In the end, MM(18) followed in his parents' footsteps and chose a public college that is impossible to beat from a cost/benefit standpoint.  I always say that about my alma mater but MM(18) has chosen a similar degree/route (at a different CA State college).

I suppose we didn't have any idea where he would end up last January, but we never considered any colleges that we'd have to go into debt over.  

$12K to Savings 

Final tally was $16,000.  The plan was to use this money to pay cash for college.  At the end of 2021 we had -$0- cash plus emergency funds.  So that's about how it sorted out.  That we had just enough to cash flow college (without tapping any prior years' savings/investments). 

We probably would have fared better on this goal (with unexpected unemployment funds and stimulus, etc.) but it was a really expensive medical year.  We basically saved $25,000 but spent $9,000 on medical, which nets out to $16K saved.

I hope this makes this our worst college year.  For future years we have all of MM(18)'s college costs saved (already) and this was a really one-off medical year.  

$2K to Investments 

Funded with snowflakes.

I had been feeling very "meh" about this goal.  Probably stopped throwing our snowflakes into investments once college started.  But I do count dividends and it was a really big dividend year.  That was enough to encourage me and I threw something like $250 of our windfall to top off this goal.

$1,200 to Mortgage 

I hit this goal with a lump sum at the beginning of the year.  

We then threw an extra $12,615 with the cash gift we received end of December.  

Why $12,615?  It was an even $20K mortgage paydown for the year and left just enough windfall to cover college expenses for the next 18 months.  

The $12,615 extra payment shaved off 2 years of payments and $9,500 interest.

9% Income to Work Retirement Plans 

MH and I both contribute the minimum for 401k match.  The 9% includes employer contributions.

$12,000 to IRAs 2021 ❌❓

Not sure on this one.  We sent $12K to mortgage instead.

I was very happy to get a redo.  We ended up doing 33% of my income to retirement in 2020 due to a nasty tax cliff.  Then unemployment was made tax-free retroactively and we didn't need this tax break at all.  No way I ever would have tied up so much money in 401K if I had known!  So I appreciate the redo.  Will average 21% to retirement both years, which is what is important.  Anything more than that...  Meh.  We are way too retirement heavy.

We also don't need the tax break for 2021.  Taxes ended up going way the other way in 2021.

To be re-evaluated in April.  I left it as a question mark because I just don't know.  Will see how things shake out the next 3 months.  We have until April 15th to lock in this decision.   (We are saving a lot, but MH's job is also very iffy re: pandemic surge).

Edited to add:

Also hit two longer term goals this year.  What a year!

**$500K+ in retirement funds (by age 45)

**$1 Mil+ Net Worth ✔

Note:  I didn't have a timeline for the net worth goal, it's just a nice milestone.  Retirement goal was extremely aggressive when made.  I swear that "thinking it" is 99% of the battle when it comes to goals.  Not to underscore the planning and hard work, but the aggressive goals seem to work in the subconscious background and find a way to work.

Net Worth Update 2021

January 9th, 2022 at 03:55 pm

I am just going to mix in current commentary with prior year commentary.

2020:  +$104,000

2021:  +$215,000  🤯

2020:  We paid down the mortgage by $10,000, purchased a newer vehicle, and the rest was stock market contributions and gains.

2021:  We paid down the mortgage by $20,000, cash/investments up $75,000, and the rest is real estate gains.  I mentioned in a recent post that real estate values have been pretty stagnant since the recession but skyrocketed this year.  My housing estimate is conservative and will probably bump up more next year. 

We were helped along with a $20,000 cash gift this year.  Thus the large mortgage payment.

2019: Today we could pay off our mortgage and still have $340,000 cash/investments. For the first time, we could do this with only cashing out about 1/2 our ROTH IRA and all of our taxable investments. It's the first time we could leave everything else intact (emergency fund, kids' college, rest of retirement, etc.). I am not tempted yet, but honestly, if I had an additional $50k in investments, we could pay off our mortgage AND leave six figures in our ROTH IRA. At that point, I would probably be tempted. Especially with just cashing out at a peak. Taking the money and running. I've always said there is a tipping point. I just have never been so close to the tipping point. If my stocks go up $100k next year, I wouldn't rule it out.

2020: Today we could pay off our mortgage and still have $430,000 cash/investments. 

My stocks did not go up $100K, and we have college to figure out.  If not for college literally starting this year, and being so close to our $500K retirement goal...  I don't think the tipping point will be until the mortgage is under $100K; we just aren't quite there yet.  

2021: Today we could pay off our mortgage and still have $530,000 cash/investments.   (Roughly $515K retirement funds + $15K cash would remain).

We discussed at length due to potential windfall (and the stock market being so high).  But college is the bigger priority at the moment.   We have lots of dollars earmarked for college "just in case".  Will hang on to that money for a few more years. (MM's college situation is pretty clear, but we still need to sort out DL's college situation.  No idea...)

Again, the tipping point won't be until somewhere below $100K.  

2020: We need our net worth to continue to increase (on average) $50k per year to reach our Financial Independence goal at age 50.

Estimate Net Worth Change for 2021:

Mortgage: Paydown $8,500

Retirement: Contribute $8,500

Home Appreciation: $45,000

TOTAL INCREASE: $62,000

Our net worth changes never look anything like our estimate (it's rare any asset class actually has an average year). But, I go through this exercise just to make sure my goal is realistic and doable.

Estimate Net Worth Change for 2022:

Mortgage: Paydown $15,000

Retirement: Contribute $20,000

Investment Gains: $20,000

TOTAL INCREASE: $55,000

More 2020 Commentary: We have 6 years left on our "financial independence" goal.  We've started out so strong, that we have 6 years left to come up with $270,000.  That is $45,000 per year net worth growth that we are aiming for.  I think it's nice how it has worked out.  We expect to be saving less and possibly drawing down assets as we pay for college over the next 6 years.  $45,000 is a lower bar than we had been aiming for initially.  I expect a major push of working hard and getting college done without any debt.  But...  I am also feeling a lot of, "exceeded goals in recent years, so can chill as we get through the next few years."  The plan is to rely on our assets to do most of the work re: retirement and longer-term future.  That will be the "chill" part.

2021:  We did it!!  We hit $1 Mil net worth.    🥳🙌🎉  

According to the bottom of my sidebar, we've hit $545K of our $600K financial independence goal.  This was a 10-year goal that we have almost hit in 5 years.  (The goal was to add $600K to our net worth, doubling from $600K to $1.2 Mil).  

It will be realistic to get there in 2022.  Will see if the stock market and real estate market cooperates.

I am personally kind of happy that we didn't fully make that goal because I can just leave my sidebar as is.  Basically, I am not going to mess with it.  The new goal I am formulating in my mind (to memorialize next year) is probably going to be $800K total cash/investments, to hit financial independence goal.  This presumes that we pull $200K equity from our home when we downsize.  The old goal was $1 Mil + paid-for home.  Which will basically remain our goal.  But presuming that we pull $200K home equity to get there, will make this easier to measure while the real estate market is crazy.  

Of course, if we did hit that "+$600K financial independence" goal this year or if we hit it next year, it is meaningless at this point.  Our spending isn't going to be realistically $40K per year until our kids are self sufficient and our mortgage is paid off.  Those are the two other hurdles we have to get past for financial independence.  So I am personally not in any huge rush.  Also, to be clear, it's just about not *having to* work and that independence.  I have my absolute dream job at this point and MH misses more meaningful work and the identity that comes with that (but is still very held back by our needier child who has yet to get his driver's license yet).  I am always kind of bemused how often people finish paying for college, get their house paid off, hit these big goals and then have big career gains.  But I can see how that is probably how it is going to play out for MH and I.  That seems to be the track we are ending up on.   

Goal Achieved, Taking a Breather

May 2nd, 2021 at 02:24 pm

Goal Achieved:  $500,000 Retirement

I feel ridiculously "retirement poor".  Because we spend so little and need so little to retire comfortably.  

Because of this, I just felt so "meh" about fomulating the next retirement goal.  I started this post earlier but then walked away to give it some thought.  I decided I've had these feelings before.  We saved 75% of our income to get into a home (San Francisco) when just starting out.  After that, we saved 50% (all of MH's income) until we had kids.  After that we took a 5 year breather to have kids.   We eventually circled back and started to think about longer term goals.  Retirement was it.  It's just not that exciting.  Might have taken us a couple of years to get into a home and a couple of years to feel ready to prepare financiall to be home with kids.  But...  Retirement is more of a decades long slog. 

So I stepped away, thought about it, and decided my feelings were similar, today.  20 years ago, I think we were just feeling very financially comfortable and wanted to enjoy the fruits of that hard work.  This time around I am feeling very burned out.  2018 & 2019 were some terrible years for me.   It's similar, but also different.  I don't think I am going to start working half as much, while I get my kids through college.  😉

I decided that I don't want to make a goal and I am going to take a breather.  It will be very relative.  A relative breather.  We were saving 20%+ to retirement after MH lost his full-time job and we had our first child.  It will be same now (20%+ to retirement).  I think a lot of our "retirement poor" is just a side effect of financial and tax efficiency.  It doesn't make any sense whatsover to give up employer match or keep money in taxable accounts (that can be moved over to ROTHs).  And...  MH is looking for a full-time job.  Has absolutely nothing to do with money.  Is more about personal fulfillment.   This breather is more about taking a break from some longer-term goals.  We are also talking about investing in some non-financial things, taking some new risks. 

I am just going to leave the "$500K retirement at age 45" goal in my sidebar.  See what the market does, and where we are in another year.  See where we are at when we are 45.

I think we are going to give it 6-24 months.  In 6 months we should have a lot more clarity on the job front (MH).  If he does find a job, maybe we just buckle down and finish saving for retirement, get our home paid off.  I don't know.  What's relevant in 2 years is that DL(15) should be making his college decisions.  All of this is a lot of limbo to sort out.  So we might want not to expend too much energy on longer term plans until this stuff starts to sort out.  

This year is going to be expensive.  I am just trying to let it go and roll with it.  We are just talking about a lot of things.  This post is too long already, so will get to these things later.

Not related to our "taking a breather feelings" whatsoever, I later saw that our home had gone up 40% in value over night.  !!  We live in a city that everyone is moving to.  

It's...  depressing.  We got priced out of the city we grew up.  Apparently we are doing the same to our kids.  It makes it really impractical (too expensive) to downsize and stay here.  It's not all bad.  It makes it more practical to move closer to our parents, if they do need more help.  We are just along for the ride.  Not planning to get off this ride for another 2 years (when DL is done with high school).  I guess this is just more limbo getting thrown into the mix.  

Yeah, it's completely absurd.  We have bought in two completely absurd markets.  I...  Don't know what this is.  It's something that has never happened before.  I saw some home sold in our neighborhood for $750K last month.  I then saw Monday morning that there were people camping out and lining up for new townhomes ($1.2 Mil) in the Bay Area.  I mentioned to my boss (I work for a home builder) and he started showing me graphs of the current market.  He's just, "This has never happened before."  The housing inventory was already non-existent before the pandemic.  So that's the fuel and throw on the fire of everyone trying to move here.  I keep seeing articles that it's also impossible to find rentals here.  

{Home construction was not labeled "essential" in our state but was labeled "essential" in our region last March, which is why work has remain very unchanged for me}.

I share because it's probably pretty likely we have hit our "financial independence" goal, with this turn of events.  {Current net worth is $1.2 Mil}.  Which is of course meaningless.  Our "financial independence" goal was $1 mil plus a paid-for condo.  It's not $600K investments + $600K home equity.  (That $200K condo is now a $400K condo, with mega property taxes).  & it's made further moot by this not being a "financial independence" goal while still supporting kids and having a mortgage.  We have to cross these other things off our list first, before we can hit "financial independence" with $1 mil.

So...  I will work on re-formulating that goal.  Again, might just step away from that for a year or two and see where this roller coaster ride ends up.  I might not formulate a new goal for another year or two.  But off the top of my head, it might be $800K investments, as a new goal.  If we expect to cash out roughly $200K when we do sell this home (and downsize).  All of this can change so dramatically based on the stock and housing markets.  It may just be a goal that needs significant re-tweaking over time.  

 

Milestones

February 13th, 2021 at 03:55 pm

I think it's official that we hit $1 mil.  !!

It feels...  extremely anti-climactic and I don't feel at all like celebrating.  But... I think it's just that it took so long (a decade) to recover from the last recession and to get back to $500K after hitting it the first time.  It's not like we are in a sunshine and roses situation right now (the world as a whole).  So I think it's mostly hard for me to find much meaning in it.

I am sure just the overall state of things is not helping.  If we could plan some extravagant weekend away to celebrate, we might.

Will see how the year shakes out and if we can still boast $1 mil when we are in a more celebratory mood.

Then...  I noticed we hit another big goal!  This one I am more excited about.

I will back up a bit.  In 2014? we made a goal to have $500K in retirement funds by age 45.  This was a super aggressive goal.  What amazes me is that how often just thinking the goal is 90% of the battle.  It puts weight on it, you believe it is possible, your subconscious takes over.  Honestly, I didn't fully believe in this goal but I did think it was possible we could reach $450K retirement funds + $50K taxable investments (earmarked for retirement).  <---- It's this goal we have reached.  Currently $465k+$35K.  Because it was the combining of two amounts, I didn't even notice when we crossed the $500K mark.  

Since forming that goal in 2014: MH found a job, we received some substantial cash gifts and the market has been on an incredible bull run.  Surpassing this goal and making it early feels like sheer luck.  

I am not ready to check off this goal.  I have two more years to make the 'age 45' timeframe of this goal.  I now think it's plausible that we can literally hit $500K in retirement funds by then.  So will keep working towards that.

I am also reluctant to make any new goals while in college limbo.  It will be another couple of months before we have more clarity on the next 4 years.  

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I did take yesterday off from work. 

2020 was supposed to be my first year (in 20-ish years) without a busy tax season.  Then 2020 went to hell.  So...  We try again?

Dec/Jan will always be crazy.  I just needed a break.

MH and I went on a pretty light hike close to home.  It was *amazing*.  It was only 1 mile to a waterfall.  We walk about 2 miles every day, and so wasn't ready to just turn around and go home.  We kept walking past the waterfall.  It had rained like crazy the night before and was pretty muddy.  I told MH, "I just wish there was somewhere we could just sit and enjoy the view for a while," not expecting that to pan out.  Turned the corner and there was a picnic bench.  !!  The view was amazing so we just sat there for probably an hour.  

{This was not *the* view, but was a view from the hike}

Net Worth Update 2020

January 2nd, 2021 at 02:10 pm

I am just going to mix in current commentary with prior year commentary.

2019: +$105,000! Wow, what a year! My money worked harder than I did this year, for sure.

2020:  +$104,000

2019: We paid down the mortgage by $9,000 and the rest was stock market contributions and gains. 

2020:  We paid down the mortgage by $10,000, purchased a newer vehicle, and the rest was stock market contributions and gains.

 

2019: Today we could pay off our mortgage and still have $340,000 cash/investments. For the first time, we could do this with only cashing out about 1/2 our ROTH IRA and all of our taxable investments. It's the first time we could leave everything else intact (emergency fund, kids' college, rest of retirement, etc.). I am not tempted yet, but honestly, if I had an additional $50k in investments, we could pay off our mortgage AND leave six figures in our ROTH IRA. At that point, I would probably be tempted. Especially with just cashing out at a peak. Taking the money and running. I've always said there is a tipping point. I just have never been so close to the tipping point. If my stocks go up $100k next year, I wouldn't rule it out.

2020: Today we could pay off our mortgage and still have $430,000 cash/investments. 

My stocks did not go up $100K, and we have college to figure out.  If not for college literally starting this year, and being so close to our $500K retirement goal...  I don't think the tipping point will be until the mortgage is under $100K; we just aren't quite there yet.  

 

2019: We need our net worth to continue to increase (on average) $50k per year to reach our Financial Independence goal at age 50.

Estimate Net Worth Change for 2020:

Mortgage: Paydown $7,000

Investments: Contribute $4,000

Retirement: Contribute $21,000

Investment Returns: $18,000 (would need 4% gain)

TOTAL INCREASE: $50,000

Our net worth changes never look anything like our estimate (it's rare any asset class actually has an average year). But, I go through this exercise just to make sure my goal is realistic and doable.

 

Estimate Net Worth Change for 2021:

Mortgage: Paydown $8,500

Retirement: Contribute $8,500

Home Appreciation: $45,000

TOTAL INCREASE: $62,000

I am confident that we will have a home appreciation adjustment in 2021.  I did not adjust in 2020, because we've only had one home sell in our immediate neighborhood, at higher price.  I will give it some time before I update my net worth records. 

I am not going to rely on any stock market gains in 2021, to meet our goal. 

Lower retirement contributions are more realistic as MM(17) starts college.

 

P.S. We will likely hit the $1 mil mark with our assets this year. Just $30k to go... That will be a very exciting milestone. 

2020: DONE!  & yes, it was very exciting!  🎈🥳🎈

Not quite there with the net worth, because have the mortgage offsetting our assets.

 

P.S.S. Good Riddance to 2019! I wish I was more optimistic about 2020, but it's shaping up to be very difficult. I can only hope for some space whatsoever to breathe and process anything that is happening.

2020: More of the same.  Honestly, 2020 was by far the easiest year for me, of last 3 years.  Phew!  But...  What I expected to be difficult in 2020 is dealing with our parents' mental declines.  That has all kind of been put on pause during the pandemic, which means just kicking the can down the road.  Which means... I expect a very high stress and challenging 2021.  So, I once again leave a trying year without much hope for the upcoming year.

Back to the net worth commentary...

We have 6 years left on our "financial independence" goal.  We've started out so strong, that we have 6 years left to come up with $270,000.  That is $45,000 per year net worth growth that we are aiming for.  I think it's nice how it has worked out.  We expect to be saving less and possibly drawing down assets as we pay for college over the next 6 years.  $45,000 is a lower bar than we had been aiming for initially.  I expect a major push of working hard and getting college done without any debt.  But...  I am also feeling a lot of, "exceeded goals in recent years, so can chill as we get through the next few years."  The plan is to rely on our assets to do most of the work re: retirement and longer-term future.  That will be the "chill" part.

Edited to add:  Need +$25,000 to hit $1 Mil net worth in 2021!  Getting so close...

I will add this to my 2021 Financial Goals

 

Opening a ROTH IRA

May 23rd, 2020 at 03:02 pm

My last post re: retirement savings for MM(16):

When he does his taxes, we will discuss funding a ROTH this year (2019). I don't really see the point and don't think that we will. But we left it to discuss at tax time, and that he has until April 15th to decide. He has a lot of very big expenses to in the near term horizon. If nothing else, he is saving up for a car. (The current car is only for his use until he turns 18, then it goes to his brother). After that, he will be saving up for a home. If not also saving to help pay for college. I couldn't have even fathomed saving for retirement before I graduated college (no parental support past age 17; no help with college). & I don't feel too much different at the moment (about him putting off retirement savings until after college), while his #1 college choice is a very expensive private college. If he ends up going to our alma mater (it costs pennies) then we can re-evaluate. I think this year is most likely, "Keep it in cash, see how things shake out next fall". We will discuss all the pros/cons, and he will be the one to make the decision. So while I am strongly leaning towards not starting to save for retirement yet, will see what he thinks.

It is personally not a priority of ours to help our kids fund their retirement. I have no plans to contribute whatsoever to that, so it's going to have to be his dollars if he does contribute.


In the end, MM(16) decided to go with the ROTH option. He is depositing 100% of his 2019 earnings into a ROTH. He made this decision back in January. I made a convincing argument for the, "have your cake and eat it too" plan. (ROTH money can always be used more short-term, no penalty for taking back the original contributions). I told him he could always abandon the ROTH contribution if he didn't have a summer job by April 15th. He was okay tying up all that cash if he would make more money this summer.

Then... Tax deadlines were extended. I think he was still going to go through with the plan.

Now that the cash is piling up from his summer job (at my office), we sat down last week and picked an investment. He was really limited at Vanguard with the $1k minimum funds. He decided on some balanced fund, maybe 60/40. (This money is mostly earmarked for a house down payment at this point. I'd maybe more heartily recommend 90/10 if this was actually for retirement).

In the end, I couldn't figure out how to open a minor ROTH account at Vanguard and added it to my chore list. Having to actually do this over the phone... UGH!

I had some time the other morning and revisited. Was googling a bit. Surely someone figured out the magic formula to just do online. While googling, Fidelity popped up with their online process to open an account for a minor. (Which is super easy apparently). They have so many $0-minimum mutual funds now, I didn't know. I had told MM (before) pretty much he couldn't park it in cash unless he just wanted to open a ROTH with one of our banks or credit unions and then just roll it over later when he has more than $3k. But... Now he could just park it in cash (at Fidelity) if that is what he wants to do. Which is may be what I do today just to get the ball rolling (he will be at work all day). I was just waiting for him to go over the Fidelity options and make a decision.

I share because it feels like we did about 90% of the work in our teens and 20s. Choosing to work and pay cash for everything. Investing in real estate very young. Etc. But opening a retirement/investment account when you are 16? That is next level. At 16/17, I was worried about paying for my wheels, paying for college, paying for the roof over my head in a very expensive city. It will be interesting to see what our kids can do without all of those financial burdens. Though we are kind of just, "Dude, you are going to need that money for housing." But they have so much support that they can afford to take a little more risk with that money and can view it as more long-term.

MM(16) is still saving up for a car, but that is also very nebulous and he has enough cash for that. Not sure if he will even want or need a car while in college? Saving it up just in case. That should be more clear when he decides how much of his 2020 income to park in his ROTH.

January Savings

February 9th, 2020 at 02:26 pm

Received $70 bank interest for the month of January.

Snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $0 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card (back to 6% with the new year, but it pays out a month behind, thus $0 for now)
--Redeemed $99 cash back on Citi card
--Redeemed $21 cash back on dining/gas card

Other snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $12 cash back on Amazon Prime card
+ $ 5 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

TOTAL: $137 snowflakes to investments

401k Contributions/Match:
+$415

Snowball to Savings:
+$415 Side Income

Savings (From my paycheck):
+$ 550 to cash (mid-term savings)
+ $100 extra to mortgage

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,500 to cash (Bumped up for 2020)
-$ 837 Home Insurance
-$ 160 Dentist
-$ 120 Prepay school lunch

TOTAL: $2,070 Deposited to Cash and Investments

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Only one paycheck this month. Literally, because my prior check had been advanced 12/31. MH is also off work. Thus, lower 401k #s this month.

Cash/Interest will be on the higher side until we fund our IRAs. It never makes any sense to decide until the year is over. Will start transferring the $12k to our IRAs (for 2019) once we finalize our 2019 tax return. (Until then, I don't have final #s of what we can contribute to tax-deductible Traditional IRAs; the difference will go to ROTH IRAs.)

Of course, I am always a month behind because these numbers reflect January Income minus December spending (December spending charged and paid off January 1). So when I sit down and enter all my income/expenses for the next month, I already know how the next month will shake out. Because spending is already fairly locked in.

Ugh, February is ugly! Spent way too much money in January. I have side income coming in (if I get it billed), MH should have one small paycheck (for at least 2 days) and I have cash out my ears. I know MH picked up a few Christmas things his mom reimbursed him for. & we treated the whole fam out to dinner again (another student concert for DL) and someone slipped us cash. Got some cash gifts for Christmas ($20 here and there). Plus, I sold a treadmill for $250 cash. This was before I got sick, so might have been November. We were going to turn around and buy a newer (used) instrument for DL. But then I got sick and it fell off my radar. I may keep the $250 on hand for that, but I have so much cash piling up otherwise it's past time to make a deposit. I will cobble together the extra money and make February work (and will zero out deposits versus expenses).

I am just going to roll with it this month and hope for a better February (spending). I know the problem is probably that our budget is way too tight. But we rolled with it so much last year I just left it that way. I just added some significant breathing room with my raise, so figured if we were muddling along without the raise, will do fine without. This just works for our personalities, we rather err on the side of over-saving. Better to save $500 and then have to pull out $100 if we were too aggressive. I will give it a couple of more months to see how things shake out. It may be too too tight, and we will adjust if necessary.

Edited to add: MH has one more paycheck than I realized, in February. He is paid bi-weekly and I got confused on the weeks. He just received a paycheck for $12. 😂 But will be a bigger one in two weeks. I am going to go ahead and change my numbers, and do our deposit to investments for January. If nothing else, I have *cash* to cover that.

Net Worth Update

January 1st, 2020 at 03:12 pm

+$105,000!

Wow, what a year! My money worked harder than I did this year, for sure.

{We've many times had six figure real estate increases in a single year, but have never had these kind of stock market gains}.

It was a good year to have this win. I had taken a pay cut and we had some significant expenses. Which makes it all the more incredible how the year turned out.

I was just excited and wanted to make sure to crunch numbers first thing to see where we landed.

We paid down the mortgage by $9,000 and the rest was stock market contributions and gains. (If you are wondering why I'd rather invest than pay down my mortgage more rapidly, this is probably a good illustration. Maybe especially considering that we have also had many $100k+ gains with a mortgaged home).

Today we could pay off our mortgage and still have $340,000 cash/investments. For the first time, we could do this with only cashing out about 1/2 our ROTH IRA and all of our taxable investments. It's the first time we could leave everything else intact (emergency fund, kids' college, rest of retirement, etc.). I am not tempted yet, but honestly, if I had an additional $50k in investments, we could pay off our mortgage AND leave six figures in our ROTH IRA. At that point, I would probably be tempted. Especially with just cashing out at a peak. Taking the money and running. I've always said there is a tipping point. I just have never been so close to the tipping point. If my stocks go up $100k next year, I wouldn't rule it out. (We seriously considered doing this with our house in 2005, but we just missed the boat. We had literally decided to move and cash out our house, doing a second "moving to a significantly lower cost region" move, but the market started to tank before we executed the move. We clearly weren't the only ones who had this idea). I am afraid we are probably in "will just miss the boat territory" this time too. Will see...

P.S. I'd honestly rather the market go down and be able to buy stocks cheaper. While it's fun to see big numbers on the balance sheet, I don't think of this huge stock market run up during my prime working years as being terribly useful to my long-term wealth.

We need our net worth to continue to increase (on average) $50k per year to reach our Financial Independence goal at age 50.

Estimate Net Worth Change for 2020:
Mortgage: Paydown $7,000
Investments: Contribute $4,000
Retirement: Contribute $21,000
Investment Returns: $18,000 (would need 4% gain)
TOTAL INCREASE: $50,000

Our net worth changes never look anything like our estimate (it's rare any asset class actually has an average year). But, I go through this exercise just to make sure my goal is realistic and doable.

P.S. We will likely hit the $1 mil mark with our assets this year. Just $30k to go... That will be a very exciting milestone.

P.S.S. Good Riddance to 2019! I wish I was more optimistic about 2020, but it's shaping up to be very difficult. I can only hope for some space whatsoever to breathe and process anything that is happening.

December Savings

December 29th, 2019 at 04:00 pm

Received $60 bank interest for the month of December.

Snowflakes to Investments:
--Redeemed $0 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card (maxed out 2019 grocery rewards).
--Redeemed $83 cash back on Citi card.
--Redeemed $33 cash back on dining/gas card; used for grocery rewards this month

Other snowflakes to Investments:
+ $231 Re-Invest Dividends
+ $ 8 Savings from Target Red Card (grocery purchases)

TOTAL: $355 snowflakes to investments

401k Contributions/Match:
+$1,400

Snowball to Savings:
+$1,100 MH Income
+$ 500 Bonus
-$ 250 Charity

Savings (From my paycheck):
+$ 550 to cash (mid-term savings)

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):
+$1,400 to cash
-$ 482 Flood Insurance
-$ 195 AAA
-$ 160 Vacation Expense
-$ 125 Yearbooks (2)
-$ 100 School Concert

TOTAL: $4,053 Deposited to Cash and Investments

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Vacation expense was $100 fuel and $60 eating out, MH's LA trip. We planned to spend a wee bit more on that trip, but I ended up sick at home instead. We canceled the one hotel night we were going to pay for, he used his parents' timeshare for two nights.

$100 school concert ~ $60 to buy tickets for us and all the grandparents. We also ended up spending $40 to feed everyone the night of the concert. This is the art school we pay -0- to, so I am always happy to contribute monies. I save a bajillion dollars with all the free/public art classes.

I guess MM(16) was sick that night (before he gave me his awful flu). Always someone can't make it last minute and I give away the $9 tickets. It always makes someone so happy. So when we got there I went up to the box office and told the lady buying tickets I had an extra student ticket if she wanted it. She didn't even look at me or say Thank You. I told MH, "Wow, that was really unsatisfying." Usually the response is more like, "Really????!!! Thank You!!" She looked so stressed out buying those tickets, I'd like to think I made her life a little easier.

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So... I am completely dumbfounded by this update. This was our level of savings when I was working second job. But I guess that it comes down to getting my raise and getting that $800/month back. I wouldn't have thought it was going to be a particularly lucrative month, was more just our typical savings kind of month.

But... This probably sums up pretty well how I ended up with an extra $3,000 that I felt comfortable throwing at the mortgage. I decided quite unexpectedly and last minute to knock that goal out. Sidebar is updated. (Had $3k+ cash left over after setting aside $12k for IRAs; we also have a 12-month emergency fund).

401k was a little extra this month because I received a 3rd paycheck 12/31 (my small business employers always advance the last paycheck of the year for tax purposes). I did also receive a bonus, which bumped up my 401k contribution.

The bonus is a new thing I have never had before. I didn't blog about it because it was not too exciting. I mean, it's EXCITING. But... I didn't pay any taxes in whatsoever for my self-employment income this year, so I put most of my bonus to taxes. It was a choice that I made. (This had been my plan all along, but I had expected a summer bonus to cover it). It's nothing like it sounds. My tax rate only ended up being about 10% on all that side income. Because I ended up with $8k orthodontist expenses to offset my income. I know there is definitely a huge element of financial savvy and strategy that comes with my tax knowledge. Like knowing I can just withhold my SE taxes from my paycheck, and it's all the same in the end. (Which I felt was prudent because I had no idea where on earth my taxes would land this year, until I got confirmation of bonus this month). But... Honestly 90% of the time it is just being in the right place at the right time. I had $10k of write-offs I wouldn't have had in prior years, between the ortho and tax law changes. So I made out pretty well.

I still had $500 left over (from bonus) after that, which I threw at savings.

Edited to add: We did our "gift from in-laws to Charity" thing over the weekend. I ended up making all of our donations Sunday night, and realized I was about $250 short of what I Wanted to do. Which makes sense, because we used to allocate my old Christmas bonus ($250) every year to charity. {I guess I consider that more of a "Christmas Gift" than a "Bonus". My bonus this year was a few thousand dollars, which is the very new and different part. I have absolutely never before had an employer give me extra money "just because". To clarify why I said I hadn't received a bonus before}. I ended up subtracting $250 from bonus above and updating numbers.