How much can you save a day?

One of my favorite metrics at the end of the year is to calculate how much we saved per day.  This metric counts every day of the year, whether we work or not.  In 2016, we fell a few quarters short of $100 per day.  Then I thought about how crazy that was.  We saved almost $100 day per day into various retirement accounts and we paid off all of those medical bills from chemo and radiation and working on our significant exterior remodel.

This year my medical bills are significantly cheaper so far (I am only up to $1,600 compared to the $8,0000+ that hit in November 2015 – February 2016, most of which were paid in 2016) and I managed to snag another raise in 2016 when I changed jobs internally so my expenses are cheaper and my income is higher.  This leaves some extra room for saving money!  Yes, I feel no strong desire to spend it (except I want a new bathroom, so maybe I do there have some desire to spend it).  Just for kicks, I did an estimate based on our contributions so far (fully funded IRAs plus retirement accounts through work and a taxable account) and found that we are on track to save (in investment accounts, not counting other cash funds) about $130 per day!  That’s more than some (a lot) of people make per day.  So how do we do it?

I haven’t ever posted our income on here, nor do I intend to yet, but I will say that combined we make below $125,000.  This is still an excellent income, don’t get me wrong, and part of the reason we got here was due to two significant raises for me in 2016.  But usually when you read finance blogs and forums, you’ll find the average person there is on the other side of $125,000.  So no, we aren’t low income people, by any means, but we may make as much as one software engineer or two entry level engineers or…well, a lot of other jobs.  So our income is the first big help.

The next big help is that we buy affordable things.  Our home isn’t fancy or big, although sometimes we think it would be nice and easier if it was. We don’t treat our grass with fertilizers or weed killers (we live very near a body of water that our yard drains into and protecting that body is important to me).  We buy food we will eat when it is on sale and stock up, but we don’t let it go to waste.  We keep the thermostat turned down in the winter and up high in the summer.  But mostly, we are just “tight with money” as my mother-in-law says.

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Two Missed Showers from a Hippie

That comment was directed at me, but that is only because the person saying it was only acquainted with me.  I definitely got some side eyes from people that do know me thinking that it wasn’t too far off from my truth.  I’d say it’s a new thing, but, I’ve probably always been this way.

Like most personality traits do, it started when I was young.  We lived on a lakefront property (pretty common where I grew up, where there were 25 lakes in the town and several large ponds and a stream/river) so I cared about water quality.  The particular lake I lived on was near a main road and some businesses and we’d frequently find disgusting amounts of trash in the water.  At a young age, I became an advocate for proper garbage disposal and recycling to keep our water safe.

Speaking of recycling, we didn’t used to have curbside recycling.  You had to drive to the dump to do it and so most people wouldn’t.  But my mom always did.  We’d drive there and an older man (whose name I wish I could remember) would direct us where to go and help us unload and teach us all about the different types of material that was recyclable.  And he’d give us a lollipop too for doing our part.

I got a little older and my mom had to work on the weekends so I tagged along with my dad to meetings and events.  He was a founder of the hazardous waste disposal day in town that still goes on today.  I was at the inaugural event, standing with an old man I came to adore over the next twenty years (maybe he wasn’t that old then, I was maybe ten and everyone was old to me).  The two of us asked the cars coming to show proof of their residence (I got to look at their license) and directed them where to go.  To this day I won’t throw anything hazardous into the trash.

I was also a little kid when I got to go to the top of the landfill in town.  Yes, we were home to one of the two operating landfills in the county.  I can see both of them from my office.  My work is built on a landfill.  Half of this area is landfills.  The massive amounts of garbage we throw out each day are sickening.  I started to see this from a young age and again, became more conscious.

On top of all of that, my parents always grew a lot of their own vegetables.  I was probably close to a teenager before I ate green beans that weren’t home grown.  They were disgusting.  I cannot eat canned green beans to this day.  I grew up planting and weeding and picking green beans, carrots, melons or pumpkins, cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower peppers.  I had to help preserve them which meant making tomato sauce and cutting ends off beans.

As I’ve gotten older and moved out, I haven’t forgotten any of this.  I haven’t been able to grow vegetables (thanks wildlife) or do as much as I’ve wanted, but I’m starting to get there.  I pride myself on having a half full garbage bag each week (and I keep trying to convince the garbage company to do pickup every other week).  I throw a lot of vegetable scraps into my fire/compost pit (I am still working on getting the Old Man to let me have a compost pile).  I am conscious of packaging when I buy products.  I don’t participate in yard waste pickup, instead choosing to mulch for a better lawn and creating less work for big trucks that drive by.  I hang dry most of my clothes, and use small amounts of detergents.  We limit our water use because clean water is a luxury.  If the town would let me, I’d even have a few chickens.

My future plans involve fruit trees and bushes and more garden space.  As for the missed showers, well, you aren’t really supposed to shower every day and unless I was sweating at work or at home (we don’t use a lot of air conditioning), well, maybe that two shower thing has already been passed…

Are you a hippie?  What things do you do to reduce your environmental impact?

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Milestones!

Ah, that moment when your net worth hits six figures for the very first time…Or when your retirement accounts hit six figures…Or that time when your 401k has as much as your yearly salary.  Those are the moments…the first ones that felt really big for me.

In April, I simplified my life by combining all of my accounts with my Old Man’s and adding him to the spreadsheet.  Since he didn’t have a whole lot of data and I was curious, I went back to his account’s inception dates and entered it all in so I could see how they were performing.  Had I done that, I would have seen that our investment accounts crossed over that six figure barrier in February, but I was just seeing it for the first time April, in the form of one giant net worth jump. It wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be.

A similar thing kind of happened when I hit six figures net worth.  It was a jump from an investment property I co-own, and it just kind of happened and I wasn’t expecting it and I missed it.  Maybe these aren’t the most exciting milestones…

Nah, they are still exciting!  It’s nice to know that all of our hard work has finally gotten us somewhere.  If I look at our combined investments, it took us exactly five years to reach our first $100,000.  That was with my starting from scratch back in March 2012 and him starting from scratch two years later, in March of 2014.  Just think, during this time period, there was only one year where an employer plan was filled to the max and only one year that we both filled our IRAs completely.  We could have hit this so much faster if we had been doing that a little sooner!

So we hit six figures in investments in February of 2017.  How fast can we hit $200,000?  I hope faster than five years!  Three months after crossing that milestone, we’re already a quarter of the way there!  How did that even happen!?  I don’t honestly know the full extent of it, but it’s not something I would expect to continue.  My estimates say I can expect to be a $200,000aire in 30 months, so only 27 more to go.  The fun part is seeing if I can speed that up, and if so, by how much.  Yes, this is how I get my enjoyment.

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Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable

It’s important to be comfortable while being uncomfortable.  It’s part of being flexible.  It’s part of life.

I started a new job in November and I have had few moments of comfort since.  My hands are always filled with grime, I have smashed fingers several times, and I’m with a completely new group of people (I’ve left my work family behind).  I’ve also been trying new things financially.

For the first time ever, I’ve switched to an HSA through a high deductible health plan.  I did the math and it should be beneficial to me.  I started hanging my laundry to dry.  I started bringing dinner to work twice a week so I don’t have to buy food.  I started shopping at different grocery stores.  I started challenging myself to cook more from scratch.  I’ll keep going too because I’m really loving it.

I want to look into making some side income with my Old Man now too.  We both want to retire one day and the only way that will be possible is with hard work.  So maybe we can get a few thousand dollars more and invest all of it to go somewhere great.

What uncomfortable things do you do?

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1 year cancer free!

I am currently spending 1 year cancer free!  Yay!  Let’s take a moment to celebrate that.

So what are we doing now that we’re heading toward the clear and our medical bills are all paid off?  Well, for starters, our medical bills aren’t all paid off.  It’s the start of a new year and a few scans and appointments later I’ve got another $1,600 in bills to pay.  I’m taking a little different approach this time and I’m going to go on a payment plan for $100 a month so I can make sure that I max out an IRA without denting my emergency fund.

What are some other things we’re doing?  Air drying all of the laundry with an indoor ceiling mounted rack system, keeping the heat turned down, and making things from scratch (pancakes, pizza crust, etc).  I’m keeping a list of stock up prices on groceries and shopping the sales to keep things low.  These are all easy things to do and don’t take a whole lot of time.  You know how I know it doesn’t take a lot of time?  Because I work full time and go to school half time and I still manage to do it.

We are transitioning to simpler living and so far I am loving it.  I cannot wait until I graduate and have more free time to do these things to help us sustain and reduce our environmental impact.

I’m also getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.  More on that coming next!

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How I Convinced My Old Man’s Employer to Reexamine Their SIMPLE IRA Plan

My Old Man is a blue collar guy.  He works with a lot of other blue collar guys.  Some are young, some aren’t, a lot of them have kids, but some don’t.  A few years ago my Old Man convinced the majority of them to sign up for the SIMPLE IRA because the company matches 3% of total salary.  That’s a great deal!  It’s free money!  At least that’s what I told my husband.  We didn’t have a lot of details then but we’ve slowly figured out that the free money is great, but his plan just isn’t that hot.

I won’t even discuss the returns he’s seen because I’ll infuriate myself.  I won’t talk about the adviser who tacks on a 1% fee to the expense ratio because he “doesn’t work for free” (also will infuriate me.  Just know that his plan was not doing well.

He started asking his owner of this small business questions and he thought he had some answers but later admitted, “I’m a small engine mechanic.  What do I know about retirement?”  It was true, he didn’t know a whole lot.  So I started sending him some basic links on things like expense ratios and how they hurt your retirement account balance.  This is a guy putting in $4,000 a month into various accounts with same adviser and I can only imagine the money slipping away. The owner started to imagine this too.

So he made a decision that he was going to pull all of the money from this adviser and he was going to look for a new, cheaper plan for everyone.  Great!  This just shows that a little financial education can go a long way.  I could have accepted that my husband has a crappy plan with crappy, stupidly high fees, but I didn’t.  I pounded away at the adviser over the phone until he admitted the fees were so high because he was charging them and restricting what he could put his money in because otherwise he wouldn’t get the great fees.  Sorry, Mr. Financial Adviser, I never liked you and I always thought you were shady, and I’m a big part of the big paycheck you’re about to lose.  I also don’t like it when people that are supposed to be working for me question my investing theory (“Because actively managed funds haven’t typically proven to be any better than index funds,” or “Because you withheld his money from the market in a downturn so he didn’t lose any more money and you’re supposed to buy low and sell high and also, just stay the course,” are acceptable reasons for me to question your so called expertise as you push me toward things to make you money.)

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January 2017 Expense Review

For this year, I am going to write out my expense posts a little differently.  Rather than compare to previous years directly (which I did because of weather patterns and life happenings), I am going to compare to my goal set for this year.  I will also be disclosing some of the values.  So let’s see how I am doing against my stretch goals (with a strong focus on things I actually have a whole lot of change to influence:

Category $$ Spent Stretch Goal % of
Goal
On Track? Comments
Electricity $61.77 $525 11.77% Yes. Electricity use goes down in spring and fall. Historically, January holds my highest electric bill (Christmas lights, perhaps?).  Yet, this is $13 lower than my 5 year historical average.
Natural Gas $63.44 $450 14.10% Yes. I hardly use natural gas in the summer months. The weather plays a huge role in how much this will cost.  This is $11 higher than the same period last year but also $37 lower than the five year historical average. My biggest opportunity to cut to make my stretch goal is in the first five months of the year.  I need the next four months to be…cheaper
Auto
Insurance
$1,368.63 $1,150

$2,100

65.17% Yes.

Part of the policies here for a year and part are for six months.

My original goal was for me.  Now I have me and a motorcycle and a classic and a daily driver.  So I revised the stretch goal.  We are saving somewhere around $850-$1,000 with this switch.
Gasoline $22.00 $400 5.5% Yes.

Gas usage will decrease when classes end too

Some new gas taxes went to effect on January 1.
Groceries $213.90 $2,400 8.91% Yes.

I won’t rule this out just because I’m a little behind.

$13.90 over monthly goal.  We bought T-bones and a pork shoulder this month and I could say that’s the sole reason we are over, but hey, cooking our own steak is cheaper than a restaurant and half of that pork shoulder has fed us for 4 days plus two freezer meals.
Restaurants $67.58 $600 11.26% No.

We are not off to a good start.

We went out to eat more than this, but used gift cards or went with people who picked up the tab.  We really need to do better here.  Also, we got talked into an arcade/eating experience that we didn’t even enjoy, and that was the bulk of this.
Water $0 $270 0% Yes.

Quarterly billing.

No bill due this month
Car Repair $0 $200 0% Yes.

Budgeted for new pads and rotors for me only.

I did experience a bent rim and a cracked windshield this month thanks to the roads though.
Remodeling $222.57 $100

$500

222%

44.51%

No.

This was a stretch goal for a reason. I like ceiling fans.

Last summer ceiling fans in two of our three bedrooms started to die.  Since I rely on this to use my air conditioning less, I was looking for deals.  We got three high quality fans for this price, plus I have a rebate to do for 11% in store credit.
Tuition & Books $5446.00

$196

$4,450 4.4% Yes.

$5250 will be reimbursed.

8 credit hours.  On the plus side, I didn’t purchase any books this year (but I did in December).  I was able to rent one book from the library and borrow the other from a coworker.  Most of this will be reimbursed in May.
Medical $0 $500 0% Yes. No appointments yet!
Clothes $0 Paid for shipping on items I got for free- my mom gave me some gift cards.
Gifts $49.19 $250 19.68% Yes.

I will stick with yes for now but I know I have two bridal showers and our baby layette we do for hubby’s coworkers.

I bought a video game for my husband last year but it was out of stock and I didn’t get charged for it until this year.  It provides him some entertainment while I am away learning.  It was supposed to be part of Christmas.  I also bought food for a funeral service for a dead cousin that unexpectedly passed.
Misc $0 $100 0% Yes.

On the auto insurance: When I set goals, I was setting it for myself and my one vehicle.  Well, it turns out that I have inherited another daily driver, a classic, and a motorcycle from my husband too.  When I was looking at new policies I combined them and put them all on one.  I paid them in full for six months.  My car alone comes in under the stretch goal (yay!) but all of our policies together, not so much (if you think my insurance is high, I also must say I live in the state with the highest insurance in the continental US).

Total Net Worth Increase: $4,740.39

Things I did in January to lower my expenses:

  • My Old Man and I installed a fancy hanging drying rack from our ceiling that has a pulley system so I can hoist it up and out of the way after it is loaded (or empty).  We dried a partial load of laundry on it the very day we hung it up.  The pricey contraption was my favorite bridal shower gift (thanks, mother!).  We ended up hanging several partial loads throughout the month.
  • I borrowed a textbook from a coworker for one class and I rented the other from Amazon to save a few dollars.
  • I printed a free calendar for the year so I can keep track of everything important.

Things I did in January to make some extra cash:

  • I found a beautiful photo of me in my wedding dress and I posted it on a Facebook wedding swap site so I can try to sell my dress!  I also posted a clutch that I never used and was given to me and a bustier.
  • I posted some mason jar drinking glasses and fancy cologne set that we have received as gifts that we have no use for as well.
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