Financial Update – December 2020

Background

Each month I will post an update on my finances to both give you, the reader, some insight into my situation and to give me markers of my progress on my financial journey. My updates include both spending and net worth.

  • Spending is divided into joint and individual spending. My husband and I each get $450 a month for our own individual spending as an “allowance.”
  • I don’t include charitable contributions in our numbers below, but we allocate 10% of our post-tax income to this each year.
  • Our net worth goal tracked using undisclosed units of money. Our goal is to hit “Financial Equilibrium”, based on Thomas J. Anderson’s book The Value of Debt in Building Wealth. This is fairly close to our FIRE number.

The Charts

The Numbers

Monthly Update

Changing the format of my monthly updates to be a little more chart-forward. Let me know what you think.

Looking at this, it’s pretty clear that we’re eating out way too much. Our food spending is basically on par with our housing costs. Eeep. Though I do plan to continue doing Daily Harvest next year (just mentally not all the way there in being able to pare back and I’d rather prioritize health over frugality right now).

I finally got myself a new iPad. You’ll see me “paying myself back” in terms of my individual allowance over the next year. I also bought myself luxury candles and RGB lightbulbs to add ambiance during a cold winter. I’ve gotten a little in the credit trap, as in I’m using Paypal’s “Pay in 4” feature to spread out these charges over two months so my “allowance” doesn’t get hit all at once since I chipped in a bit of money to my mother’s birthday gift. I’ve only been doing this a little bit, and I can see how easily this sort of thing can snowball. I’ve already burnt through by fancy Byredo candles but will still be hit with three more payments for them through mid-February. Ouch!

This month, I changed my asset allocation to be a lot more aggressive. I put about 10% of our investable assets into ARK Invest funds (ARKF/ARKG) and a very small amount into crypto (BTC/ETH). I am probably just getting caught up in the general market elation, but I put such a small amount in that am fine if they all collapse to zero.

I’m excited for 2021 to get vaccinated and resume life as usual. I’m hoping next year to buy some investment property out of state. I can’t tell if I should try for a promotion next year— it’d be a 25-30% pay increase from where I am now— but it’s so unclear how to even start broaching this with management changing and there being so much politics. It’d definitely help boost my savings goals. I’m also hoping we’re more successful getting pregnant next year than we have been.

In short, I’m ready to get on with my life already!

How were your finances in December? 

Daily Harvest Meal Delivery Review (Spoiler Alert: I Liked It A Lot)

This post is not sponsored, however it does contain referral links to the service I am reviewing. Readers who want to try the service can use my referral link to get $25 off their first order and, in turn, I will also get a $25 credit.

As many of you know from reading my monthly financial updates, I have been having somewhat of a hard time cooking lately. Between work and a constant low level depression, I’ve rarely had the energy or inclination to make myself food, however simple, leading me to order in food more than I should.

As a result, my waist has definitely widened and I’ve ended up in a bit of a spiral of being too exhausted to cook, eating unhealthy food, feeling lethargic from the takeout, and so on and so forth.

I figured to break the cycle, I’d probably want to try something new. It had to be low-effort so my depression brain wouldn’t get in the way. Traditional cook-them-yourself meal kits– like Blue Apron or Purple Carrot– are too much work in my opinion for too little value (it’s easy enough for me to find recipes and order groceries online, it’s the actual cooking I end up not wanting to do). So I was looking for some pre-made meal options. Cue: Daily Harvest.

What is Daily Harvest?

Daily Harvest is a frozen, pre-made meal delivery service. Their food is vegan and whole-foods based. When ordering, you can choose to have 9, 14, or 24 items delivered at a time. Items are priced by item type (e.g. smoothie vs. flatbread), and you get a (small) discount for ordering more items.

How does Daily Harvest compare to other frozen foods or meal kit services?

The food Daily Harvest tasted really fresh, in a way that other frozen foods do not, including from high end “healthy” brands like Amy’s Kitchen. Unlike Blue Apron-like meal kit services, Daily Harvest meals are mostly prepared already.

How much prep is involved?

The amount of work needed is akin to other frozen meals. For smoothies it’s popping a cup of prepared fruit into a blender, for harvest bowls, just throw in the microwave for a few minutes. I would say if you have enough energy to make a bowl of packaged ramen, you have enough energy to make these.

Pro-tip for flatbread makers: use a real pizza pan when making the flatbreads and put them in the oven as it pre-heats. The flatbreads have some vegetables on top which it seems like DH doesn’t cook down before putting as topping, which can cause the centers of flatbreads to get a little limp (though I found not particularly mushy or off-putting). A pre-heated pizza pan helps a lot in maximizing the crust crispness.

How does the food taste?

Daily Harvest uses whole foods in their meals and it shows. When eating their meals, they felt home-cooked, not in a stick-to-your-ribs just-like-mom-used-to-make sort of way, but still unfussy, wholesome, and clean.

DH has one-line descriptions for each of their foods to describe their tastes. I found those to be a mixed bag– a few were spot-on, a few were not quite.

Since DH is vegan, omnivores may find some meals are not fully satiating without a little bit of extra topping. Small additions of pre-cooked meat or shredded cheese can go a long way in rounding out the meals without adding too much prep work to feel burdensome.

I tried the following items:

  • Dragon Fruit + Lychee smoothie (4/5): light, tart, summery. Strawberry taste dominates.
  • Cherry + Almond smoothie (2/5): strawberry taste dominates. Was expecting more of a nutty blend
  • Banana + Black sesame smoothie (3/5): I was something similar to the glutinous rice ball taste and it got clooose but is in an uncanny valley in between. I think the lemon and blueberry were unnecessary additions and the tartness takes away from the enjoyability.
  • Coconut + Chai smoothie (3/5): a little spice to it, strikes me as a very fall/winter drink
  • Tomato + Cremini flatbread (4/5): basically a mushroom pizza. Crisp crust edges can still mean a limp center due to water from the tomato.
  • Spinach + Artichoke flatbread (5/5): my favorite flatbread, just add a pinch of salt and it’s chef’s kiss.
  • Pear + Arugula flatbread (4/5): less sweet than you’d expect, but still tasty.
  • Hazelnut + Chocolate bites (5/5): divine. Tastes exactly like it sounds. Had to keep from eating all of them in a single sitting.
  • Broccoli + Cheeze harvest bowl (3.5/5): not that cheesy. The sunflower seeds added a little texture that made this taste more like broccoli and water chestnuts.
  • Dragonfruit chia pudding (3/5): my husband said this was pretty bland.

How much does Daily Harvest cost? (And is it worth it?)

At the time of my writing Daily Harvest prices its items as follows (rounded to the nearest dollar, because I don’t support this $x.99 nonsense):

  • Smoothies – $8 each, which range from 90-570 calories
  • Harvest Bowls – $9 each, which range from 160-470 calories
  • Flatbreads – $9 each, which range from 330-460 calories
  • Soups – $8 each, which range from 90-380 calories
  • Oat Bowls – $6 each, which range from 230-380 calories
  • Chia Bowls – $6 each, which range from 310-430 calories
  • Scoops (vegan ice cream) – $9 per pint, which range from 780-990 calories
  • Bites (dessert balls) – $8 per pack of 7 bites, each bite ranges from 80-130 calories
  • Lattes – $8 each, which range from 80-110 calories

Boxes of 14 items get a $10 discount, 24 items get a $20 discount.

In my order, I tried a smattering of smoothies, harvest bowls, flatbreads, and bites. I felt, based on the amount of food I got and calories in each meal to satiate my hunger that:

  • Bites were unambiguously worth the $8. I’d order these anytime to tide over a sweet tooth.
  • Flatbreads are somewhat overpriced, though I would happily pay around $7 each
  • Smoothies are somewhat overpriced, given the size (around a cup without added liquid). I would probably value them around $5 for most (or up to $7 for the ones with fancier ingredients)

To my slight chagrin my husband did get the oat and chia bowls, which are very easy to DIY, but at least they did make for a relatively filling breakfast. I would normally not be inclined to buy either, but if I did I’d say $4 (or $5 for the most fancy ones) seems to be a fair price. Though I did not try them this week, Scoops seem worth it to me– at $9 they are in line or slightly less than artisanal ice creams like jeni’s splendid. I don’t drink lattes or eat soup much so I can’t tell you if those are worth it.

When I ordered from Daily Harvest, they were having a buy one, get one free special for Cyber Monday. So I ended up getting two 24-item boxes for around $175, or roughly $3.65 per item (as compared to the $8.13 average per item cost from our order without the BOGO or $20 bulk purchase discount).

In short: I think most items are somewhat overpriced for the amount of food you get, but not grossly so. Too expensive as an everyday option for most people, but definitely more affordable if you can score the right discount code.

How would you rate Daily Harvest? Would you recommend it?

Overall, I feel like Daily Harvest is:

  • Taste 4/5 – The food is good and, despite the variety of ingredients, surprisingly unpretentious.
  • Convenience 5/5 – Easy to order to prep. By far the easiest meal kit service I’ve tried.
  • Healthiness 5/5 – About as healthy as pre-made meals can get. Whole foods, plant-based, freshly frozen and taste like it too. However, and this is true of most fruit-based meals, be careful with the amount of sugar in the smoothies, bites, and scoops– just because they are plant-based doesn’t mean they aren’t also mini desserts too.
  • Price 3/5 – It’s expensive for what you get, but not obscenely so (relative to other meal delivery services).
  • Package Waste 3.5/5 – Compostable and recyclable packaging. Still a decent amount of packaging, one the order of buying a crate of TV dinners. Not great, but probably as good as a service like this can get. In terms of sustainability, it’s nice these are plant-based too (some amount of carbon footprint offset there).

Overall score: 4/5

I would whole-heartedly recommend Daily Harvest to people who are crunched on time, looking for a healthy food option, and are in the financial situation to afford the service. With discount codes, Daily Harvest can be a good way to tide a professional working couple over with healthy lunches and snacks for a hectic week. That said, the price is pretty steep for what amounts to a frozen meal (albeit a good tasting, healthy one) and is probably no suitable as an everyday food option for most people due to cost alone.

Have you tried Daily Harvest? Are there other meal delivery services you would recommend?

Financial Update – November 2020

Each month I will post an update on my finances to both give you, the reader, some insight into my situation and to give me markers of my progress on my financial journey. My updates consist of two parts:

  • Financial Progress Table – Tracks joint net worth progress.
  • Spending Table – Compares monthly spending to an average (for us) budget, keeping us accountable for additional expenses. I will also include my personal discretionary budget as well; I will not include my spouse’s discretionary spending, which I do not see.

Financial Progress

Each net worth goal in the Financial Progress table is broken down into undisclosed units of money. Our goal is to hit “Financial Equilibrium.” This means, more or less, FIRE at roughly 4% withdrawal rate.

Spending

We’ve created a joint budget which represents the average amount we can expect to spend each month. This is average amount we need to comfortably live in case of a job loss, emergency, etc. I expect to frequently mostly keep in line with our budget when amortized over the year, even though amounts may vary from month to month.

For privacy reasons, there are two things I do not include in our joint spending updates: our monthly mortgage and charitable donations (pegged at 10% of our net income).

Here is my own personal discretionary spending for the month. I try to spend $450 or less each month for my “fun money” since that’s the allowance that’s apportioned to me and my husband.

Monthly Summary

I don’t know how, but I’ve started clawing my way out of the perpetual low-grade depression I’ve been in the past few months. I think eating a bunch of comfort food in Thanksgiving helped. Also I’ve decided to switch teams at work, which has made me give less of a f—, which probably has something to do with it.

In any case, a couple financial items: I finished a refinance, which will reduce my monthly mortgage payment by 20%. Also hit my one-year cliff at work, which boosted our net worth a whole lot.

We spent too much on food (what else is new), and I decided to start splurging in other unnecessary creature comforts and lots of Xmas gifts for friends and family. I’m ready to hibernate for the rest of the year, but in a good way.

How were your finances in November?