Fiery Millennials http://www.fierymillennials.com Financial Independence from a millennial's point of view. Mon, 27 Mar 2017 15:10:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://i1.wp.com/www.fierymillennials.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/cropped-Black-Icon.jpg?fit=32%2C32 Fiery Millennials http://www.fierymillennials.com 32 32 103552657 Rental Property #1 http://www.fierymillennials.com/first-rental/ http://www.fierymillennials.com/first-rental/#comments Mon, 27 Mar 2017 14:16:52 +0000 http://www.fierymillennials.com/?p=1389 Read more...]]> Well everybody, it's official.

I am a homeowner! Perhaps more importantly in this context, I'm also now a landlord!

“Ok Gwen, that's cool, BUT SHARE THE DETAILS! WE'VE BEEN TEASED ENOUGH!!”

Alright, alright, alright. Here's the numbers and information on my very first rental property!

  • Stats: Triplex
    • Unit #1: 1 bedroom, 1 bath
    • Unit #2: 1 bedroom, 1 bath
    • Unit #3: studio, 1 bath
  • Size: 2,100 square feet
  • Style: Conversion
  • Condition: Good
  • Built: 1910
  • Purchase Price: $85,000
  • Repairs: est. $15,000 (!?!?)
  • “Total” Acquisition Cost: $100,000

What does that gross?

  • Rental Income: Unit #1: $600
    Unit #2: $500
    Unit #3: $385 (when I'm not living in it)
  • Does it Meet the One Percent Rule? Obviously.
  • Total borrowed— $77,647
    • Mortgage: $76,500
    • VA Funding fee: $1,147
  • Down payment: $8,500 (10%)
  • Mortgage: $359.60 per month
  • Taxes: $248.92 per month ($2987/year)
  • Insurance: $96.91 per month ($1162.92/year)
  • Vacancy: $88 per month ($1056/year) at 92 percent occupancy, $1100/mo rent
  • Management: $110 per month ($1,320/year) at 10 percent fee, $1100/mo rent
  • Repairs/Maintenance: $100 per month ($1200/year) because it's an old house that needs some TLC
  • Total Expenses: $1,003.43 per month

Cash Flow: $386.50 per month, or $4638 per year

Cap Rate$4,638 / $100,000 = 4.64 percent

WTF, Gwen!? You're doing all this work for only $300 a month? A cap rate of 4.64%?! That's a terrible deal! I thought your numbers were way better than that!

Woah. Easy. Take a deep breath.

I've run the numbers for the first year where I will be living free of cost. The unit I'm occupying previously went for $385/mo. That's $4,620 not leaving my pocket, but also not entering my pocket because I can't rent it out. If I run the scenario above including my studio unit, the numbers get better.

Cash Flow: $740.66 per month, or $8,888 per year

Cap Rate: $8,888 / $100,000 = 8.89 percent

8.89% > 4.64%

I guess those are decent numbers then…. so how did you find this income producing property?

My city is split in the middle. I chose to focus on the western half only. Of that western half, I focused on just a few zip codes. I started watching the listings as soon as I knew I'd be moving to the area. This helped me get a feel for the local market and let me see what comps were going for. Once I found a realtor, he added my parameters to a program that spit me an email every time a new property came on the market that met my requirements.

My requirements for a property were:

  • met the 1% rule
  • good shape
  • at least one unit empty
  • move-in ready
  • no pool or other time/resource intensive landscaping

I also checked out the local crime statistics on the gov't website and Trulia to make sure the area wasn't riddled with crime. Nothing more than petty crime in the area, so we're good there. I will just have to remember to lock my car doors (which I do anyways).

I would love to share photos, but most of the property is already rented! To protect my tenant's privacy, I'm only going to post the ones I took of the outside, my unit, and the common areas. Note also that these are very much the before pictures. I have one 8 million or two small things to update. It's going to be gorgeous when I'm all done though!

Click to view slideshow.

 

“I see you noted the condition as good…. can you explain more about that?” Absolutely. Thanks for asking!

For a house that's 107 years old, she's in pretty great shape! The roof was redone in 2008 and looks great. The foundation is also in good shape for being a bunch of rocks stacked on one another. It's everything else in between the roof and foundation that needs some TLC.

Ok, that's not fair. More stuff is fine and doesn't need attention than the amount of stuff that does. But boy howdy, the stuff that needs some attention will be a doozy. I need to redo the gutters, replace rotten wooden exterior boards/shakes, paint everything, take a tree limb down, redo the back stairs, and finish the attic.

Of those items, the back stairs and finishing the attic can wait. I will have to do the back stairs next year. Finishing the attic…… I'm not sure that will happen. It's unnecessary. The studio works just great without it. I want to finish it so I can have some more space beyond the 12′ x 13′ room I have now. We'll see. Depends on if I can do it DIY or hire my friends to do it on the cheap for me.

Some of the existing features of the house will need to be replaced as well. Everyone who's looked in my bathroom has blanched at the state of the toilet. It works, and doesn't leak, so I don't care. But, it will need to be replaced before I get new tenants in it.

Same thing with the stove. I'm pretty sure it was around in the Carter administration.

The washer and dryer in the unit downstairs will also need replaced at some point. The current tenants have insisted the washer and dryer there now work just fine, but if they ever leave I'm replacing them.

One day….. one day this house will be restored to her former glory and I will be so happy. Until then, I'll just tackle one thing at a time!

Shout out space:

Thank you SO MUCH to the following people for all the encouragement, inspiration, and practical advice. I literally could not have done it without these amazing folks behind me. I highly recommend reading all of their stuff on real estate, as this is everything I used to find and buy my property. (and BiggerPockets. Can't forget them!)

Paula Pant @ Afford Anything: My OG Real Estate inspiration
Chad Carson @ Coach Carson: Super useful posts on RE from a guy who owns tons of rentals
Miss Mazuma @ Miss Mazuma: Excellent cautionary tale, super useful advice on the whole process and small living
Claudia @ Two Cup House: Amazing advice on small living
GuyonFire @ GuyOnFire: Had really great advice on the purchase process, small living, and landlording!

And last but not least, Julie from Millennial Boss for being a calming influence and willing to let me vent to her in a call.

Thanks for reading! Any space-saving tips on downsizing into a studio apartment?!

 

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Downsizing, Depreciation, and Debt http://www.fierymillennials.com/downsizing-depreciation-and-debt/ http://www.fierymillennials.com/downsizing-depreciation-and-debt/#comments Wed, 22 Mar 2017 11:59:17 +0000 http://www.fierymillennials.com/?p=1382 Read more...]]>
Instead of just my living room, this is the equivalent of all my living space now.

When I started writing this blog over two years ago, I was living in a 1,500 sq ft house that featured 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, and tons of closet space. I had more space then I ever needed. One bedroom for me, one bedroom for my craft space, and the other upstairs for storage/media room/roommate area. I also had a huge kitchen and living room to fill.

Fortunately, I didn't go crazy stuffing the place with furnishings. When I moved in the summer of 2016, it was into an 1,100 sq ft 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment. All of my stuff fit more or less neatly into the apartment. I still had big closets to put my stash of empty boxes in. My kitchen still had great counter space and even came with a nicely sized pantry! Of course, I paid through the nose for it but it was well worth it to be close to work.

Then I moved again. This time into a friend's basement. It consists of one big room, a small bedroom, an even smaller bathroom, and one tiny closet under the stairs. I've been living with a good portion of my stuff in boxes the last few months. For $400/mo (all-inclusive!), I've been dealing with it. It hasn't been my favorite place to live, but it's done the job nicely.

And now….. it's time to move again!

But this time is special.

This time I'm moving into my very own house and it's going to be awesome.

Or is it?

Since I'm buying a triplex, I'm moving into one unit (to be determined if it's unit 2 or 3. The utility company and I were not on the same page). This unit is the smallest one in the house. It's a studio. I'm talking one bathroom, one medium-sized room, a small kitchen, and a closet. Fortunately, access to the attic is in the unit, so I will be working on cleaning that up and finishing it off to make more space. For now, it will serve as desperately needed storage space for the equipment I have for my hobbies.

I'm not sure how I'll manage being in a studio after having such spacious accommodations in the past. I had a studio unit as an intern and disliked it intensely. A good chunk of that dislike was aimed at the shitty neighbors who smoked outside my only window and kept their places so gross that I got bugs. I suspect not having to pay for housing will help abate my dislike of small living spaces.

This also has the added bonus of helping me pare down my stuff. Why do I have extra bottles of shampoo and conditioner sitting around when I don't even like how it cleans my hair? Why am I hanging on to so many clothes when I don't wear them any more because they don't fit or aren't my style? Why do I have a box full of paperwork?

Mew sleeps well because he doesn't worry about the future.

I've been hauling this crap around for too long. It's time to say farewell to my towel collection. (currently at 13). I am one person. I need 4 towels, max. (Every day, beach, spare, and old towel for leaks and gross stuff I don't want on my nice towels). I have an excessive number of blankets, but I'm not ready to give those up quite yet.

My kitchen doesn't have much space in it, so I will probably be downsizing a bunch of kitchen stuff as well. Just gotta move it over there first!

Paring down my stuff isn't the only thing on my mind lately. I've been thinking about a lot of the “behind the scenes” stuff that goes along with rentals.

For instance……. depreciation. That's a thing I had no reason to care about until now. My 2016 taxes are uncomplicated still, thank goodness, but that will not be the case in 2017. I found this article from PT Money (of FinCon fame) that explained depreciation clearly. I will be referencing it in the future when it comes time to put this all into action.

I've also been busy looking over sample leases and researching my state's landlord and tenant rights. I would've included that in the title too, but it didn't go with the nice alliteration flow I had going on. If you've got a lease you're willing to share with me, please feel free! I want this to go smoothly from the get go. Gwen@fierymillennials.com is my email 🙂

The other thing weighing on my mind is the debt I'm taking on by buying this house. Except for one small $2500 loan to buy my first car, I've never had any debt. I love seeing a big fat ZERO next to the word debt when I check Mint.

I'm not sure how I'll handle having debt.

Sure, it's “good” debt.

This mortgage is the leverage I need to put gasoline on my FIRE plans and fan the flames into a bonfire.

It's also only – “ONLY” – $77,647. Or, eerily enough, damn close to my entire salary for the year. It's not like I'm buying a $200k McMansion. I just rent the basement of those, not buy them.

I will not be making extra payments on the mortgage for the first few years. I will need every penny for improvements and buying more rentals. After I fix everything up all pretty and buy all the rental properties, I will take a deep breath. And then probably pay down the mortgage. I am not paying $60k extra in interest when this property only cost $85k to begin with. I don't care if that interest is spread out over 30 years. That is a lot of extra money and I don't want the bank to get it.

The main spreadsheet I use has a home equity tab. It's been fun to put in various numbers and see how even a $100 extra a month makes a huge impact! I did have a minor heart attack at first when I put in the numbers and it messed up my entire spreadsheet. My panicking only lasted as long as it took me to zero out all the other months in my spreadsheet that didn't need home equity. Still seeing my spreadsheet go feet up was not pleasant and I don't want that to happen ever again.

But I am thrilled to see how the mortgage and extra rental income will impact my financial journey, and I'm even more excited I get to share it all with you! Wish me luck!

What did you feel like before you bought your first property? Did you freak out like me or were you cool as a cucumber?

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My Vision of FI: Phase One http://www.fierymillennials.com/fi-vision-phase-one/ http://www.fierymillennials.com/fi-vision-phase-one/#comments Wed, 15 Mar 2017 12:44:24 +0000 http://www.fierymillennials.com/?p=1341 Read more...]]> I've written previously about my plan for financial independence. Twice, actually. Once in My 10 Year Plan post and again in it's sequel, My 10 Year Plan: 2016 Update. I know, I'm real good at coming up with titles. Be jealous of my skillz.

For those of you that have just stumbled across this little slice of FI heaven, I've give you the TL;DR version:

Work and save lots of money
Retire when I hit $587,500 by 35
Live happily ever after

That was last year. This is now.

This year, I'll be changing the plan more times than a 17-year-old girl trying to get ready for a date with the football captain. (and no, not basing that off any personal experiences….. or am I?)

I'll be covering them in a series of posts, based roughly on how I expect/anticipate/hope things will go.

First up is this post, which will cover everything in the Accumulation phase.

The second post will cover everything the Financially Free phase (say that ten times fast).

The third and final post will cover everything after that.

Notice a distinct lack of numbers and dates. Things can change so rapidly one way or the other that I'm not sure it's worth trying to pin a date or dollar amount to anything. I mentioned 2019 a few posts ago and almost immediately regretted setting that date on it. I would certainly like it to happen, and I'm going to strive for that with everything I've got, but as with much of life, there are no guarantees.

Before I look into the future, I want to take a quick peek back at where I've come from.

Start: Age 23, Net worth $10,000

Year 1 (2014): Age 24
Net worth $45k
Partially maxed 401k
Maxed Roth IRA
rented
Comments: I made a mistake when calculating how much went into my 401k. I included the company match. So, while I ended up with almost $18k saved like I thought I would, I actually only saved $13k. I did max out my Roth IRA though, and also rented a house. Total income: $76,314 (pre-tax)
Year 2 (2015): Age 25
Net worth: $83k
Maxed 401k
Maxed Roth IRA
rented
Comments: As of December 2015, my net worth was $83,000 (ish). I maxed out my 401(k) for real and vested my employer contributions, in addition to maxing out my Roth IRA. I rented an apartment for the last 6 months of 2015. Total income: $80,526
Year 3 (2016): Age 26
Net worth $128k
Maxed 401k
Maxed Roth IRA
partially maxed HSA
rented
Comments: My last year in the development program. I tried to buy a rental property that didn't work out, so I continued to rent. I maxed out my 401(k), Roth IRA, and put some money into my HSA. I got a new job at the end of the year that came with a big fat raise! I moved from the apartment into a friend's basement while I waited to buy a multi-family rental property. Total income: $82,269

It's nice to see I beat my 2016 estimate for net worth by a few thousand dollars! 3 years with really close estimates gives me a lot of faith in my estimating skills.

Which is a good thing…… because it's about to get way more complicated with the rental property thrown in there. But it's a good complicated and I'm happy to add in the complexity!

Accumulation phase going forward

In the next two years I project I will have the following financials:

Total estimated W2 income: $150,000
Total estimated rental income: $62,000
Total estimated misc income: $25,000

Total estimated expenses: $60,000

Those numbers are before tax. However, I happen to know some pretty smart tax accountants, so I'm hoping my tax burden will be a great deal less than it was in years past. Between my rental property business and the blog, I'll have lots of opportunities to apply as many deductions as humanly possible. Which, if you've ever taken a gander through the US tax code, add up to a significant number of deductions.

W2 Career

I make just about $77k per year. Not too shabby for someone 3 years out of college and in the Midwest. I do not expect to get any major bonuses or raises before I stop working. I do expect, however, to continue to work hard and have fun while on the job. I love my new position and don't want to change jobs after the 18 month ‘freeze' is up.

It's so nice to come into a job I love with great coworkers. Having had several not as satisfactory jobs in the past taught me how valuable a good team and fun job is. I also like the fact I can make plans for projects in the future! My last jobs all had firm end dates, so I always felt like I was being left out when they discussed future projects.

The income from my W2 career will provide the capital I need to start and expand my rental property business.

Rentals

Speaking of rentals…. I am staring down the barrel of closing on my first property! Now that the time is here, I'm equally parts terrified and elated. This is incredibly important to me and the last thing I want to do is mess it up. So you can bet I'm doing tons of research and coming up with a bulletproof lease (that's being checked over by a real estate attorney just to really cover my bases).

This first property will produce just shy of $10,000 this year in income. Next year it will bring in approximately $17,000. If, you know, everything goes exactly to plan and I encounter no major issues. Knock on wood!

That will account for a good chunk of the rental income I'm projecting. So, you ask, where's the other $35k coming from?

Ah-hah! Another rental property! (or two, or three!)

My goal is to have at least 3, and hopefully 4 rental properties to my name by the end of 2018. I want to buy another one this fall. That will be straight income producing, without me living in it. Then in the spring of 2018 I want to buy another property, one I can live in through 2019. Then in the fall of 2018, buy the 4th one (hopefully)! What a fabulous birthday present to myself that would be.

I'm guesstimating low for the income the properties will produce, since I can't guarantee they'll all be triplexes bringing in $1,500/mo. Property number two I'm guessing will net me around $5k for the year, depending on when I close and take over the property. I've set that number at $15k for 2018. Property number three I'm guessing will bring in $10k if I buy it in the spring. Property number four, the fall purchase, is set at $5k.

Other Income

The “other” income category is exactly what it seems. Any money I make on things not my career or rental properties. That includes things like this blog, stained glass sales, and any other side hustles I come up with (anyone want to have me house sit while they travel the world!?). I'm working towards bringing in $10k this year, and $15k next year.

If any of this seems confusing to you, just know you're not alone. I had to create a handy dandy graphic just so I could keep it straight!

On the other side of the equation is expenses. I've guesstimated those to be $60k for 2017 and 2018 combined, but honestly I have no idea. Buying properties and sprucing them up for renters comes with a fair amount of one time expenses. I know for sure my expenses will be way lower than 2016 as I'm no longer having to cough up $1057 in rent every month.

Summary

That brings me to the close of my accumulation phase. I'm going to continue to work hard, save lots of money, buy properties, and just generally diversify my income streams while keeping my expenses as low as I can.

….I also said I wasn't going to focus so much on numbers, and then proceeded to create an entire post around the anticipated numbers. The irony.
What do you think of my plan so far? Any suggestions or words from the wise?

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Fiery Millennials: Year Two http://www.fierymillennials.com/fiery-millennials-year-two/ http://www.fierymillennials.com/fiery-millennials-year-two/#comments Mon, 13 Mar 2017 12:18:17 +0000 http://www.fierymillennials.com/?p=1241 Read more...]]> You guys! On this day, exactly 2 years ago, I registered this domain and starting blogging!

HAPPY BLOGIVERSARY TO FIERY MILLENNIALS! I MADE IT 2 YEARS!

I am so incredibly grateful I started blogging. I've met so many fabulous people, developed meaningful relationships, and learned so much.

I have no doubt my life wouldn't be anywhere near as amazing as it is right now if I hadn't started blogging. My investments are optimized (ish), I've traveled to some amazing places for free through churning and friends opening up their homes, and I have more amazing memories tucked away for rainy days than I could've ever imagined.

Watching a friend drunkenly inhale In N Out.

Paddling around a still lake at twilight.

Staying up until 2 in the morning discussing the mysteries of life with new friends.

Summiting a mountain and feeling wisps of clouds caress my cheeks.

Starting this blog has allowed me to form deeper relationships with those in the FIRE community and I don't think I'll ever be able to express how much that means to me.

In the past two years, I've attended 5 official FI events and many more unofficial meetups. I've had the pleasure of going to Ecuador for the Chautauqua in 2015, the Berkshire Hathaway blogger/FI meetup 2016 in Omaha, the OG Camp Mustache in Seattle, FinCon 2016 in San Diego, and Camp Mustache 2017 in Florida. Unofficially, I've been able to hang out with FI people in Chicago, Dallas, Maine, London, and the greater Midwest area.


Meeting all these people and forming friendships with them has created a far-flung network all around the world. The locations isn't the only thing that's diverse though. Everyone is different: younger, older, married, single, kids, no kids, chosen method to FI, rentals, no rentals….. It's allowed me to expand my thought process about my path to FI.

When I started this journey, I was going to work for MegaCorp until age 35. Because of the encouragement and wisdom I've gained from the community, that path has changed! All for the better, don't worry.

It's been fun for me to go back through my archive and see how things have changed in the last two years.

I've written 130 articles! WOW!

In the beginning, I had a few close friends reading and giving me feedback. Slowly, so so so very slowly, traffic started to rise as I found my voice and started to interact with the community.

I tweeted this picture just a few days into 2017:

And this is what that exact same view says today:

In the first quarter of 2017, I've already gotten HALF the traffic I had in 2016. That's amazing!

To all the new bloggers out there reading this, just keep writing. I think I had 500 total views for 2015. I'd have days where I would get 1, 2, or even no views at all. Now, I average about 500 views in a single day. The love I get from everyone warms me up on even the coldest days. So, reader, thanks for reading! To those of you who send me emails and interact with me on social media, thank you so much for the time you take to write those messages. I save each and every single message in a special folder. (I don't know what I'll do if I get a nasty gram. Stay tuned.)

A number of things have surprised me about blogging in the last 24 months.

First off, I am surprised at just how freaking hard it is to blog. Figuring out the technical behind the scenes stuff, wrestling everything into looking how I want it to, and especially how difficult it is to keep coming up with fresh, new content. The Rockstar Blogger Directory has close to 1,000 bloggers in it already! Granted not everyone is a FIRE blogger on it, but still. That's a lot of pressure to come up with new stuff and trying not to copy anyone's previous posts.

Second, it's a bit disconcerting (and awesome) when I go to talk to someone in person, and they tell me, “oh, I know. I read about it on your blog”. I've done it to a few bloggers myself and now I understand their reaction. [I hold no regrets about being called a super fan. It's true so…]

Finally, it's a fantastic conversation starter. Mentioning that I'm a blogger gives me some sort of different status in people's eyes. Especially now that I've been at it for two years! My words carry more weight now than they normally would coming from a 26 year old. It's definitely made me stop and consider what I'm about to say more than once.

So. I've been blogging for two years now. (!!!!) Where do I see Fiery Millennials going?

Well, have no fear. I'm not going anywhere! I intend to keep blogging for as long as people are interested in my story.

That being said, there will be a few slight tweaks to the blog. I mentioned one of my goals this year was to start monetizing the blog, and I intend to start that in the next few weeks. Don't worry, I'm not going to plaster the site with ads or shove affiliate links for things down your throat, but I'm not going to categorically reject offers, either. As the site grows, hosting becomes more expensive. Having affiliate links will allow me to continue hosting the site and bringing you awesome new content!

I'll continue to write about my adventures, lessons learned on the path to FI, sharing my numbers, and detailing everything about my rental properties. I will probably split the reports into two: one for rental properties/blogging, and the other one for my personal expenses. I will be tracking them separately for tax purposes, so it only makes sense to split them up into two different reports as well. This way those of you that don't blog will be able to continue to see what my “normal” expenses look like! And, to those of you who do blog, you'll be able to see what expenses and income I get from the blog!

I've gotten a lot of messages telling me how much you all appreciate the numbers so they're not going anywhere!

Here's to the next year of blogging! I cannot wait to see what it brings!

Love,

 

 

 

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Into the Wild Blue Yonder http://www.fierymillennials.com/into-the-wild-blue-yonder/ http://www.fierymillennials.com/into-the-wild-blue-yonder/#comments Thu, 09 Mar 2017 16:53:50 +0000 http://www.fierymillennials.com/?p=1245 Read more...]]> I've mentioned my experience in the military here and there, but I haven't really gone into any detail about it. I've gotten several requests to talk about various aspects of being in the military and I'm happy to oblige!

I don't really like to bring up being in the military in my every day to day life. I've found it evokes a very strong reaction from people and I'm not necessarily a big fan of that. At least now I don't get random strangers coming up to me asking if they can give me a hug! <– true story from my town pass in San Antonio. She smelled nice.

“So, Gwen…… why did you join the military?”

I joined the military for two reasons.

One, my family has a proud history in the military. My Grandma, Grandpa, two uncles, stepdad, and cousin were all in service in a time frame spanning from World War II to the Gulf War. My sisters had no wish to join, but I always thought it was kind of cool. Ironically, my Grandma had a conniption about me joining and expressively forbid me to join. I didn't listen to her and have no regrets.

Then, the second reason happened. Not anything like getting inspired to join after 9/11 or anything like that. I was only 10 when 9/11 happened, and I'm not nearly that altruistic.

No, I had a far more selfish reason to join. I wanted the military to pay for my schooling. My parents sat me down shortly after the beginning of my sophomore year of college and told me they would only cover 2 years at the local community college. I wanted to go to a 4 year university, and not be surrounded by the same people I'd known the last 11 years. But I didn't know how I would pay for it. The thought of getting student loans freaked me out. I couldn't even handle having a $2k loan for my car. There was no way I would willingly get myself into tens of thousands of dollars of debt for my education.

So I starting talking to a recruiter. After keeping in touch on and off, I finally signed up in the spring of 2009, right before I graduated high school.

It was only after my name was signed on that line did I get the call about the full-ride scholarship with my name on it. I had the chance to back out of joining when my physical was rejected, but I decided to apply for a waiver. I had already told everyone I was joining, after all. The waiver was accepted, I raised my right hand, and was officially in the Air National Guard.

Then, I promptly left for my freshman year of college and barely had anything to do with them until my freshman year was complete.  All I had to do that year was show up to drill once a month and practice saying things like my reporting statement, memorizing the Air Force song, and learning the basics of marching and saluting.

Since this is a personal finance blog, I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about the financial impact. The Air Force was my only source of income for much of my freshman year of college.  I was BROKE. The aforementioned car loan was $150 a month, and I only got $200 a month in pay. I wasn't talking to my parents either, so I had no parental support.

Living off $50 a month was doable since all my major expenses were covered thanks to the scholarship. It definitely wasn't easy, and I grew to appreciate all the free activities my university offered. To pick up some spare cash, I went back to the toy store of doom. I ended up saving almost every single penny from that, which got me through the spring to Basic.

Ah yes…. Basic Training. The best worst time of my life.

Looking back, I actually had a really great time. I think it's just because I've repressed how freaking miserable I was though. For kicks and giggles, watch the video below. This is what the first night of Basic used to look like. Fun fact, my MTI (Air Force drill sergeant) actually appears in the video towards the end.

Basic was miserable. We were sleep deprived, forced to march everywhere in the blistering summer Texas heat, constantly harassed by everyone we met, and had very little time to eat and shower. I'm talking barely enough time to sit down, slam 4 glasses of water, lick a biscuit, and get the F out of the mess hall.

The first two weeks of Basic actually wasn't that bad…… until I was promoted to Dorm Chief. At the tender age of 19, I was put in charge of all 59 women in my flight whenever our MTI wasn't around. I lasted two weeks. In that time span, I learned I was really bad at being in charge of people. I commanded no respect. Of course, it's not like I actually got lessons in leadership or anything helpful like that. That experience as Dorm Chief was instrumental in my overall career path, though, as I learned I was really good with computers and not really great with people. I spent the remaining time at Basic as a shoe aligner (every morning I went around and made sure everyone's shoes were in a straight line, with their shoelaces done correctly and tucked in the shoe).

But I survived and came out a stronger, better person. I learned a lot of valuable lessons about myself and about how other people operated. Being exposed to people from a wide variety of backgrounds and lifestyles was very eye-opening to my sheltered self.

I then spent 4 months in Biloxi, Mississippi at tech school. If Basic's purpose is to teach you how to be in the military, then tech school's purpose is to teach you how to do your job to the Air Force's standard. My job in the Air Force was working on computers, radios, and telephones. It was 4 months of computer classes that gave me the confidence to switch my major when I went back to school.

After tech school, I did 6 weeks of On The Job (OJT) training with my squadron at home. This experience taught me what I was going to do for our squadron. Funnily enough, there wasn't much overlap with what the Air Force said we were going to do.

My training period, from Basic to OJT, lasted about 8 months. I got paid about $1,500 a month. Simple math says Uncle Sam paid me roughly $12,000 that year, a princely sum for someone used to living on only $50 a month. I paid off my car and bought some new clothes (some of which I'm still wearing today), new movies, and a new cell phone. In other words, I went crazy lol.

After I finished OJT, I got the first half of my $20,000 signing bonus and went back to school. Life at school with money in my pocket wasn't much different from when I was broke, except I went out a bit more and wasn't afraid my car would run out of gas. Having money also meant I could afford to replace my car when I totaled the first one by running into a deer.

A year later, I got the chance to go support a mission and jumped at the opportunity. I spent two weeks in Guam with a bunch of people from the Utah Air National Guard and had an absolute blast! The work was light for tech support and easy to handle when something did break. It was basically a paid vacation.

So, if you had so much fun, why did you get out?

Truthfully, I was bored out of my mind. All we ever did was have drill once a month, and annual training for two weeks in the summer. Endless amounts of useless paperwork was filled out, training classes attended, and things set up and torn down for no reason.

Not to mention, I started my career in the middle of my time in the Air Force, and doing 12 day work weeks every month was starting to wear me out. I have no idea how guys with families do it for 20 years. I was getting paid so much at work, and so little from the military that I felt I was just wasting my time. There was no room for advancement either. So, I got out.

I've been out of the military for almost two years now. I miss the people at my base, but I don't miss putting up with all the crap. I am enjoying my freedom though! I can travel whenever I want, I can move wherever I want, wear my hair how I want, and just generally live my life without Uncle Sam in my back pocket.

If you want to join the military, I would think long and hard about it first. Make sure you're going in for a good reason. Find a career that's applicable in the civilian world, milk the military for every ounce of training you can, and have a plan on what you want to achieve while in the military. And of course, live as cheaply as you can and save as much pay as possible. The military covers so many basic expenses (food, housing, training), that your expenses should be super low.

And whatever you do, DON'T get married just to get out of the barracks.

Have you thought about joining the military? Were you in at one point? Let's hear your stories!

 

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Monthly Status Report: February 2017 http://www.fierymillennials.com/monthly-status-report-february-2017/ http://www.fierymillennials.com/monthly-status-report-february-2017/#comments Wed, 01 Mar 2017 20:18:55 +0000 http://www.fierymillennials.com/?p=1297 Read more...]]> Why do I do a monthly status report?

I find it best to do a monthly status report for a few reasons.

  • It helps me evaluate how I did the previous month. Did I hit a target reduction in spending or did I go way over budget for a par­tic­u­lar category? Did I earn more? What was my overall savings rate?
  • It helps keep me accountable. How can I make an extra purchase knowing I’ll have to explain myself to all of you? Talk about awkward when the blogger can’t walk the walk and talk the talk.
  • I want to prove this crazy thing called financial independence works!
  • It provides an example of real world budgeting and expenses. Some of the people I talk to haven’t ever seen a proper budget or seen one put into action, and part of the purpose of this blog is to lead by example!

I use Mint to help me track my spending and keep an eye on my accounts. I also use a really awesome and super in-depth spreadsheet. So many formulas….. Some people use Personal Capital and others use You Need a Budget (YNAB). Whatever tool (or combination thereof) works best for you and your needs is the best one for you, since everyone and their budgets are different.

Spending

February was an EXHAUSTING month! I don't know how people with kids work 10, 11, and 12 hour days. I was pooped! A couple of very important multi-day meetings took place and I was kept busy running around supporting them all.

As if work wasn't enough, I also decided to add in the fun of buying a house to the mix. I'm pretty sure I did nothing more than fill out paperwork and make phone calls for a solid 3 days. But everything has been going smoothly on the house process so far, so I'm thrilled this is actually going to happen this time!

I did have a fun weekend away in Chicago. The weather was beautiful (65-70 degrees in Feb!!), the drinks plentiful, and the company was the best. I got to hang out with old friends, show off the city, and have lots of fun! We ate more calories in 2 days than I did in the previous week combined lol. Good thing we walked at least 8 miles! This trip to Chicago is why my food budget looks so whack.

To explain the chart below a bit better, the third blue column contains the amount I actually spent. You can compare that to the second column, which lists the budget for that category. The same goes for discretionary expenses, although I don't really have a budget for them. I just try to not go crazy.

Without further ado, I present my February 2017 expenses (for better or for worse):

Rent Third month of the new rent. Still amazing.
Utilities No utilities! It's all included in the rent.
Food You can thank Portillos, Wrigleyville, and Giordano's for the high food budget.
Phone So low. I love Project FI!
Auto Lots of driving and one Uber at surge pricing.
Internet No internet charges for awhile 😀 also included in the rent.
Insurance Health insurance is paid directly from my paycheck.
Pet More food and litter for the floof.
Support I support my sister with her missions!
Blog Time to renew the blog hosting!
Entertainment Monster truck rally souvenir and hockey game raffle.
Shopping The shirt for CMSE and a new book 🙂
Travel Payment #2 for Ecuador!!!!!!! AHhhhhhh!!!!
Gifts Tickets to a Cardinals game with my momma! (Don't worry, she already knows about them so I can put this on here. Love you mom!)
House Inspection fee. Good news is it will be reimbursed!

Ignore the misc category in the picture – I forgot I moved that to another category so that's why I left it out. All told, my spending totaled $2,731.76 for February! A bit higher than ‘normal' and definitely higher than last month. Considering I don't anticipate spending like that for the rest of the year, I'm ok with this. My expenses will drop even more when I move into MY HOUSE (!!!) and don't need to pay rent. However, I'll be back to paying for internet and utilities again. Cue sad trombone music.

Income

Gross: $5,508.22

Adjusted: $3,087.76 (after taxes, deductions, and other withholdings are taken out)

Taxes: $1,496.32

A normal month of income. Nothing came in except a few dollars in interest and my paychecks. Next month will be fun since I get my tax refund back! And! I got another raise, so that will kick in for my next check. It's my annual cost of living increase and only went up 1.11%. Not even beating inflation, but I'm still grateful it's something. My salary has increased a whopping 14% in the last 12 months! That means 14% more to save! Woop!

Savings

401k: $2,147.38

Roth IRA: $450

HSA: $220.82

Cash: $0

Total savings: $2,818.20

A ‘normal' month of savings. I wish I had been able to save more of the cash coming in, but a trip to Ecuador for the Chautauqua is sooooooo worth it 😀

Since I spent more this month, my savings rate came in at 50.01%. I'm impressed it was only .01% away from being an even 50%.

According to the Lab over on Mad Fientist’s site, my FI date is now 7 years and 11 months away, which means I’m now at January 2025 instead of February 2025! One month passed, one month dropped.

My total net worth is now sitting at $140,058.00! The market was INCREDIBLE in January, so I'm just trying to tell myself these are paper gains and nothing to be counted on. Still, it's nice to see!

Side Hustle

This month: $0

Total: $1525

Income: $0

No more expenses for the near future as my shop has moved to the unfinished part of my new digs!

Thanks for reading! What did your month look like? Did you stick to your budget?

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Interview with Our Financial Path http://www.fierymillennials.com/interview-with-our-financial-path/ http://www.fierymillennials.com/interview-with-our-financial-path/#comments Mon, 27 Feb 2017 17:01:08 +0000 http://www.fierymillennials.com/?p=1269 Read more...]]> I'm busy slacking off recovering from a stressful two weeks at work, so today's post is an interview with Mr. and Mrs. XYZ of Our Financial Path. They very graciously agreed to trade interviews with me! You can find my interview on their site. It's full of fascinating information and fun tidbits you might not know about me. Happy reading!

Who are you and what do you do? What is your story? Where did you start, where in the journey are you, and where do you ultimately want to end up?

I am Xyz, one-half of Our Financial Path. I write with my wife about our journey towards early retirement, travels, and life experiences through this all this. We are Canadians that inspire to live a fulfilling, plentiful, and happy, life all while saving for early retirement. We have currently saved about one-fifth of our FI goal and are aiming to retire before 35.

How did you get started on the path to financial independence?

I started my journey at 23 when I started investing a large part of my income simply because I wanted to buy stocks. I saw the appeal of owning companies I liked such as Apple, Tesla, Facebook but I did not have any long-term plan or vision. After a while, we started shopping for a house so we saved aggressively for a down payment and after that, we simply continued saving without a precise goal in mind. We then found Mr. Money Mustache's blog and were hooked! We read a bunch of FI blogs and really started saving towards retiring early.

What does FI really mean to you?

For us, financial freedom is the opportunity to choose. We don’t know if we will have kids by then but retiring early is definitively a great opportunity to spend time with your kids. We may work part-time or just do side-gigs we really enjoy. The great thing about FI is that it gives you those options.

In terms of traveling the world, we are not waiting until retirement to enjoy this passion. We travel multiple times a year and really enjoy discovering new cultures. You can read about our latest trip here.

What is your criteria for saying you are FI?

Being FI means freedom. Once we have enough to pay our bills with a decent leeway, then we will be ready to hang the towel. We plan to follow the 4% rule into retirement even if some prefer the safer 3.5% or 3%. We are very flexible and have no issue going back to work part-time if things get really tight.

Would you say you are more inclined to the not-working-anymore part of FI or the freedom part of FI?

Work is not our passion, we are not workaholics. For us, not working is definitively the motivation to have the freedom to do whatever we want. We always had side-hustles and always plan to continue working on those (apps, blog, sharing economy) even once FI.

What is your preferred way to invest? Do you have a preferred asset class in particular or asset allocation?

We follow a fairly simple 3 fund portfolio as our base holdings. We invest through Vanguard mainly into the US Total Market (VTI), All Cap Canadian Index (VCN), and International Indexes (VWO)(VEA). You can see our exact holdings and asset allocation in our Open Book series.

Do you invest automatically on every paycheck?

Yes. This is one of the keys to expanding wealth. Saving mindlessly every single week and not looking at your balances too often is the best advice I could give you.

What are your favorite financial tools?

The tools we always use are Mint and FIREcalc. We track all of our spending through Mint since it works great with all our Canadian banks and credit cards and use FIREcalc to test out different scenarios. It backtracks investment scenarios and allows us to test asset allocations, spending scenarios, and different timelines.

What are your thoughts on house ownership vs. renting?

We own a house in the suburbs. We went through all of the calculations and scenarios and it simply made sense for us. Depending on your location and cost of living, renting can be better than owning. One can really get ahead if he (or she) invests instead of spending considerably on a home but it all depends on your personal situation.

What is the worst financial decision you have ever made?

Our biggest mistake was to buy stocks without knowing anything about them and try to day trade. The very first year I started investing, I blindly bought stocks on hopes of good earnings announcements but, honestly, I didn’t even know what the companies were selling. After a few months, I had one bad day where I lost $2000 in a single day. After that, I stopped trading without research and stopped day trading for good. We now invest in index funds and if you would like to learn all about those; we highly recommend JL Collins' stock series.

What is the best financial decision you have ever made?

To follow-up on our previous answer, our best financial decision was to start investing in low-fee index funds. This diversified our portfolio and keeps the fees to the bare minimum. Another great decision I made was to marry my wife. Having a great partner who follows common goals and strategy is a great way to build wealth.

What are your plans once you retire?

For now, we want to slow-travel. Go to countries for 3 or 4 months at a time and take the time to learn their cultures. If we have kids, we definitively want to be there for them.

What is the best advice you can give a millennial starting out?

If you are starting out, the best advice we can give you is; start now. Compounding returns are magic and are the best tool to build great fortunes on average salaries.

It's always fun to get to know other FIRE bloggers! Any other burning questions for Our Financial Path?

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Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is http://www.fierymillennials.com/money-where-your-mouth-is/ http://www.fierymillennials.com/money-where-your-mouth-is/#comments Fri, 17 Feb 2017 14:35:19 +0000 http://www.fierymillennials.com/?p=1248 Read more...]]> I'm up to my eyeballs in paperwork for the house, inspections on the house, making calls about the house, and doing 12 hour work days this week. Mrs. Picky Pincher has graciously agreed to do a guest post to help me out! She is the blogger and resident klutz at www.pickypinchers.com. She writes about her journey paying off $225,000 of debt while living like a queen. Read her great post and then click on over to see all the great frugal living, debt paying, super saving information on her site.

Take it away, Mrs. Picky Pincher! (PS Can you ever have too much Pokemon paraphernalia?)

There I was, nibbling on a fried chicken strip, feeling smug.

What Mrs. Picky Pincher looked like. Minus the stache.

Our homemade dinner of peanut butter Rotel chicken didn’t work out (what a surprise), so Mr. Picky Pincher and I grabbed fried chicken as a last resort. As I bit into the crispy, greasy goodness, I couldn’t help but judge the people around me in the fast food restaurant.

“Ha!” I thought, “Look at these suckas! They don’t realize their money is going down the drain eating here. Hell, I bet they eat out every night. Ugh. Non-frugal people really grind my gears.”

Knowing nothing about these people, I hypocritically nibbled more on my tender victuals.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big proponent of homemade meals. They’re the reason I was able to slash our $1,000/mo grocery bill to under $500/mo. Naturally homemade meals didn’t always work out, though, especially when we first got married. And that meant quite a few “emergency” restaurant stops.

So why was I judging people for eating at the same damn place where I was eating?

Because I wasn’t taking my own advice.

How to take your own advice

I’m a very proud person, which means every now and then I need to be knocked down a peg. It’s so, so easy to judge other people while putting yourself on a pedestal. “Oh, I only grabbed Dairy Queen out of necessity! But surely these people eat here every night. Ugh!”

Yeah, right.

I blog about personal finance, but there I was, wasting my money along with everyone else. I just made up stupid excuses to give myself a Get Out Of Jail Free Card. I wasn’t special, different, or better than anyone else.

Here’s how I’m learning to take my own advice.

Practice mindfulness

Disclaimer: not Mrs. Picky Pincher

I’m guilty of chugging coffee and mindlessly powering through my day, my only end goal being sleep and sweatpants. When I go through the motions I don’t like to dwell on things like “thinking” or “reflection.” These are the days when I’m bound to judge someone for buying a coffee at Starbucks, wearing new $200 shoes, or eating out for lunch.

It’s so, so hard, but I’m learning to practice mindfulness. I’m a Type-A person with anxiety, so staying calm and minding my own business is a tall order, but I’m making it work. I meditate, exercise, and try to live in the present. I focus inwardly on myself, and not on others.

It’s a calmer, more fluid approach to life. Mindfulness makes it easier for me to take my own advice instead of forcing my advice on other unwitting people.

Evaluate your weaknesses

It’s hard not to feel good about myself when I’m in the middle of a juicy Sonic cheeseburger or trying on a new pair of jeans. But that’s the prime moment to reflect on what I can do to improve my spending habits.

If I focus on my weaknesses in a positive, constructive way, I’m finally taking my own advice. I know it’s bad to buy more Pokemon paraphernalia when I have rooms bursting full of it—and that means it’s time to stop spending, purge a little, sell a few things, and apply the surplus to debt.

By focusing on my weaknesses (oh hey there, chocolate bars), I’m less likely to judge the weaknesses of others. I’ve got my own shiz to worry about, after all.

Practice what you preach

If only it were that easy, right?

Just do what you think is right for your budget, and do it all the time. So easy!

Except it’s not that easy. I know eating out is bad for my budget, I know new shoes are bad for my budget, and I know a fancy Brazilian steakhouse is bad for my budget. I still do all of these things anyway, all while preaching about smart money moves.

Ugh!

I need to put my money where my budget is. It’s easier to tell people what they should do instead of leading by example. I’ve been able to improve a lot over the last two years, but admittedly I still have my spendy days. With a combination of practicing mindfulness and evaluating my weaknesses, I’m getting better at living my principles.

The Bottom Line

It’s a breeze to tell other people how to spend their money. But why not tell yourself how to spend your money? I’m learning to take my own advice and run my own race—without worrying about other peoples’ choices.

We want to know: Do you ever fall off the frugal wagon? Do you judge strangers?

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My Investments http://www.fierymillennials.com/my-investments/ http://www.fierymillennials.com/my-investments/#comments Thu, 09 Feb 2017 17:06:34 +0000 http://www.fierymillennials.com/?p=1227 Read more...]]> Before we dive deep into the world of investments, I want to make clear I am not a financial adviser. What I write should not be taken for advice. I don't even know if I'm doing this thing right!

That being said, I've received a few emails asking me what I invest in, what my investments look like, and what Bartholomew likes to eat for breakfast.

Rather than reply individually, I've promised a post that delves into the nitty-gritty details. But first… a bit of background.

I was exposed to the stock market fairly early in life. My 5th grade teacher did a project where we “got” $100k to invest in whatever stocks we chose. We checked the stock prices each day in the newspaper for a month. I think the winner won a candy bar. I didn't come anywhere near winning, but it was a great first lesson on the market.

Several years later, I remember my mom and stepdad being furious when their K-Mart shares became worthless in the blink of an eye (Sears bought them out). That was an excellent teachable moment and they answered all the questions I had about the process. We also never shopped at K-Mart or Sears again!

Then, of course, came my senior year of high school, better known as 2008 and the start of the Great Recession. I was mostly unaffected as I had only cash to my name. I did have a small inheritance from my grandma, but it stayed flat. Grab a pencil and draw as straight a line as you can imagine. That's what my account balance looked like. I have no idea what it was invested in but I didn't lose any money. I also didn't see any gains in the recovery. That account became the basis for my taxable investment account several years later.

I transferred that money over to a taxable investment account started by my stepdad's broker after I discovered MMM in college and started getting serious about my money. I also started a Roth IRA with the second payment of my military sign on bonus around that time.

A short time after that, I started my internship and opened my 401(k). I didn't get to put much in it, since I was “just” an intern. I am grateful, though, that not only were we allowed to open a 401(k), but we also got the match from MegaCorp. When I started with them full-time, I added an HSA.

That is the full breadth of accounts I have: 401(k), Roth IRA, Taxable Investment Account, and an HSA.

As for what that $110,893.83 is invested in…..

I follow the JL Collins' method of investing: KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid. If you haven't read The Simple Path to Wealth or his Stock Series, you need to do that ASAP. It doesn't have to be done all in one sitting. Take your time, really read what he's saying, and absorb it.

I invest in the best option possible for the account. My 401(k) is with Fidelity, so I invest in their S&P 500 Index Fund, ER .01%. One of the best benefits of working for a very large company is super low fees! At the very beginning, I also bought some bonds but quickly stopped doing that. It's like, 99% Index Funds now. My HSA is through Wells Fargo, I think, and required a minimum of $3k to invest. I get charged $7.99 per trade, so I convert the cash into shares of VTSAX twice yearly. Not ideal, but it's triple taxed advantaged so I deal with it.

My Roth IRA and taxable investment account are with my broker at Baird. I have been meaning to move this account to Fidelity but haven't gotten around to it yet. One day.

Why Fidelity over Vanguard? It's where my 401k and HSA are, so it's more for the ease of my use than any other reason. Fidelity and Vanguard have very comparable fees nowadays.

I use Personal Capital for the sole reason of tracking my investments. Mint isn't very great at that, in my opinion. PC can't track my 401k either, but at least it creates less of a stink about it than Mint does. Plus, PC does this really cool thing where it tells you what your asset allocation is.

Obviously, I'm a weeeee bit heavily weighted towards US Stocks. Not very surprising when I invest the vast majority in VTSAX and my Fidelity S&P 500 Index Fund.

Currently, my investments make up the vast majority of my net worth. I would like to think I'm prepared to weather a recession, but I won't know that until I actually go through one. Since I'm so heavily weighted towards the US Market, I'd be particularly susceptible to any downturn.

Hence, the reason I am diversifying my investments and turning towards real estate! Having at least one property in my portfolio will help out a ton, so just imagine what 3-4 properties will do for me! If I weren't in a place to buy a property, I would invest in a REIT. However, great deals are everywhere around me and should only increase in a downturn.

Currently, my investments are mostly in my 401(k). I will continue to max it out each year since I'd be a fool to pass up that tax advantaged space.

“Uhhh, Gwen…. aren't you doing just that by not having a traditional IRA?”

Kinda. Shh. I'll get there in a minute.

For now, enjoy a graph of what my overall investments look like:

Now that my attempt to distract you with pretty pictures has failed, let's revisit that whole Roth vs. Traditional discussion.

I like Roth's for the ease of getting into the money. After 5 years, I can withdraw the contributions (not the earnings!). This is super useful for somebody retiring early (i.e. me). Roth IRA's also have the added benefit of no RMD's when you hit 70 and aren't taxed extra upon taking the money out, since it was after tax money added in the first place.

I also think* my income will be lower in retirement than it is right now. That lends itself to the Traditional IRA (plus my taxes would be lower with the deduction), since I have a fairly high income now. I'm just not sure I'm under the threshold for the deduction after my raise.

It would also thoroughly complicate things in the future if I can get access to a mega backdoor Roth before Congress revokes that loophole. Plausible, but probably not going to happen.

Finally, I don't want to switch over because I've got a good setup right now and don't want to change it. I'd have to open a new account with Fidelity and recharacterize my contributions for 2016 and 2017.

So now that you've seen how my investments are laid out, please let me know what you think in the comments!

*: That's what the projections say anyways. Who knows what could happen!

Is there anything glaring that pops up? Any optimizations you would make? What do your investments look like?

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Monthly Status Report: January 2017 http://www.fierymillennials.com/msr-jan-2017/ http://www.fierymillennials.com/msr-jan-2017/#comments Mon, 06 Feb 2017 12:00:23 +0000 http://www.fierymillennials.com/?p=1207 Read more...]]> Why do I do a monthly status report?

I find it best to do a monthly status report for a few reasons.

  • It helps me evaluate how I did the previous month. Did I hit a target reduction in spending or did I go way over budget for a par­tic­u­lar category? Did I earn more? What was my overall savings rate?
  • It helps keep me accountable. How can I make an extra purchase knowing I’ll have to explain myself to all of you? Talk about awkward when the blogger can’t walk the walk and talk the talk.
  • I want to prove this crazy thing called financial independence works!
  • It provides an example of real world budgeting and expenses. Some of the people I talk to haven’t ever seen a proper budget or seen one put into action, and part of the purpose of this blog is to lead by example!

I use Mint to help me track my spending and keep an eye on my accounts. I also use a really awesome and super in-depth spreadsheet. So many formulas….. Some people use Personal Capital and others use You Need a Budget (YNAB). Whatever tool (or combination thereof) works best for you and your needs is the best one for you, since everyone and their budgets are different.

Spending

January simultaneously crawled along and flew by at the same time. I had an absolute BLAST hanging out at Camp Mustache SE with new and old friends. I took the time to hang out with friends at home as well. I had a few fun board game nights and went out to a couple of happy hour events.

I also participated in the Uber Frugal Month as challenged by Mrs. Frugalwoods. I am proud to announce a successful month! I'll go into more details after the breakdown of my expenses.

To explain the chart below a bit better, the third blue column contains the amount I actually spent. You can compare that to the second column, which lists the budget for that category. The same goes for discretionary expenses, although I don't really have a budget for them. I just try to not go crazy.

Without further ado, I present my January 2017 expenses (for better or for worse):

Rent Second month of the new rent. Still amazing.
Utilities No utilities! It's all included in the rent.
Food Check out me coming in way below budget. I'm so proud!
Phone So low. I love Project FI!
Auto Gas, with one $56 parking charge at Midway. Ugh.
Internet No internet charges for awhile 😀 also included in the rent.
Insurance Health insurance is paid directly from my paycheck, and the others are an average from my 6 month payment.
Pet More food at litter for the floof.
Support I support my sister with her missions!
Misc Spending cash for my trip and the fee for my consultation with Keith @ CMSE
Travel $500 down payment for the Chautauqua in Ecuador!!!! I can't WAIT to go back!
Fees Fees are dumb. Can we agree on that?
Gifts Retirement gift and a belated Christmas gift for my sister
Hobbies Fabric for a new baby quilt for a friend!

All told, my spending totaled $1,618.26 for January! If you read last month's status report, you'll know I only wanted to spend $1,200 for the month. I know $1,618.26 is more than $1200, but I'm considering the month a success anyways. If not for my down payment to the Chautauqua in Ecuador this October (!!!!!!!!!), I would've made it. However, I considered the down payment a non-negotiable. If I hadn't signed up right away, I would've missed out on going altogether and that's just not cool. I'm particularly proud of my spending (or lack thereof) on food. I cleaned out my freezer and made do with substitutes instead of running out to the store all the time. I won't be continuing this in February but I also didn't go out and spend a crazy amount on the 1st just so I could say I didn't spend it in January. Thanks to Mrs. Frugalwoods for the excellent challenge!

Income

Gross: $6,999.98

Adjusted: $3,701.70 (after taxes, deductions and other withholdings are taken out)

Taxes: $1,456.76

You have no idea how tempted I was to add $.02 to the gross income to make it an even $7k. But truth in numbers and all that jazz.

This month I earned slightly more than normal thanks to getting my deposit back on my last apartment. It would've been higher, but they dinged me for cat damage. Why did I get a cat that likes to chew on expensive washer gaskets!?! It's a good thing he's incredibly adorable.

Savings

401k: $2,275.20

Roth IRA: $450

HSA: $970.82

Cash: $1,499.50

Total savings: $3,696.02

A few things to note about the savings. My 410k is set slightly higher than it was last year. I found out my employer will deposit the match through the year no matter when I max it out. If I wasn't saving for the house, I would try to max it out way early but I am saving for the house so I left it as is.

January is also the month I get my HSA match. They deposit $750 straight into the account which technically helps offset the higher costs of using my health insurance. Realistically it means more money for me to turn into even more money thanks to my BFF Compound Interest.

The cash amount saved (again, so wanted to add $.50 to that number) is simply the amount left over after my expenses. If I were still in my old apartment, I probably would've only been able to save maybe $100? I'm so happy I moved!

Having drastically lowered expenses meant my savings rate for January was a whopping 74.30%!! I would be thrilled if this became my new normal. Not sure how that will go with the expenses from the house though. Stay tuned for more details on the money side of that life change!

According to the Lab over on Mad Fientist’s site, my FI date is now 8 years and 1 month away, which means I’m now at February 2025 instead of August 2025! This means I dropped an entire YEAR off my FI date in 2 months! I expected my lowered expenses to have an impact, but I didn't know it'd be that huge! This is the best ever!

Side Hustle

This month: $0

Total: $1525

Income: $0

No more expenses for the near future as my shop has moved to the unfinished part of my new digs!

Thanks for reading! What did your month look like? Did you stick to your budget?

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