Financial Update – December 2018

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 current goal is to reach “Financial Freedom.” By the time we reach this goal we will have:

  • A retirement account that can support us when my husband hits 65
  • Two college savings funds funded for four years of in-state public university tuition, room, and board
  • An emergency fund for six or more months of living expenses
  • Sufficient liquidity for my husband and/or I to make a career change with one to two years’ runway
  • A mortgage less than two times our combined gross salaries without bonuses or equity.

Once “Financial Freedom” is achieved, the focus will then working be towards “Financial Equilibrium”, where the income from investments covers all our ongoing expenses.

december

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).

december joint.png

Here is my own personal discretionary spending for the month. I try to spend $600 or less each month for my “fun money” since that’s the allowance that’s apportioned to me and my husband.

spend ind

Monthly Summary

Big net worth drop this month due to the market. Not terribly concerned (wake me once we get back to pre-election levels), but I am keeping money coming in a bit more liquid for now, in part because I know we’ll be front-loading retirement plan investments in the beginning of the year anyway, so might as well stock up a little cash-wise while we can.

Husband bought some more work clothes, but otherwise joint expenses are what we expected for the month (including the delayed $$$ therapy bill dropped on us in November). Individual spending was just under target, almost compensating for the overage last month.

Personal life-wise, I’ve just been working a lot. But I’m hitting flow (I think) so that’s maybe good? I am trying to push hard and build all the systems I need to put in place so things will be easier to handle before pregnancy, babies, etc.

Notable things that happened in December include:

  • Nothing. 😦

How were your finances in December?

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‘Tis The Season For Charitable Tax Deductions 2018

Since 2016, I’ve made the commitment to donate 10% of my net income each year. I do 10% because I grew up around very religious folk and felt like, though I’m not religious myself, I wanted to have something akin to a secular tithe. An amount that felt “moral” but not like I was giving away the farm. Something that was just the right amount of painful. Here is a link to my 2017 post.

In 2018 we continued to donate 10% of my net income, but not our joint income (though we will be contributing based on joint in 2019). We donated much more in 2017 than in 2018 because I “prepaid” my balance for tax optimization purposes due to the Republican’s new law. However, we did get our wedding guests to donate a few thousand dollars to our favorite charities rather than buy us expensive presents, which is not reflected in the below numbers.

Here are the areas we donated to in 2017 and 2018:

donations.png

We don’t plan at the beginning of the year how much we’ll donate to each area, but we think this is more or less a decent reflection of my values. Note that we donated much more in 2017 than in 2018 because I “prepaid” my balance for tax optimization purposes due to the Republican’s new law.

Here are the organizations represented in each bucket:

  • Food Security. This is for the small, local food rescue organization that donates fruits and vegetables to seniors, people with disabilities, and other food programs in our area. This is money I feel “proudest” to donate to each year (see: my deep emotional connection with food).
  • Immigration. Lots of money to RAICES because we as a country continue to jail and torture migrants in droves. Honestly, I don’t understand why the press continues to fuck around about the internal politics of the administration when children are literally dying under ICE custody. I am deeply ashamed for how impotent I feel on this issue. Money doesn’t feel like enough.
  • Environment. I used to divvy this bucket up amongst a lot of different environmental advocacy groups, but nowadays I just dump it all to the National Resource Defense Council.
  • Criminal Justice. Local (state) bail fund.
  • Civil Rights. Local LGBTQ+ advocacy organization.

What we didn’t donate to this year:

  • Brother’s education. He graduated and while I gave him a little money to celebrate that, there are no more tuition/room/board etc payments going forward. Woohoo!
  • Political organizations. I feel somewhat guilty about this but, honestly, every time I thought about donating for the 2018 cycle I kept thinking (1) Dems already had landslide levels of funding and (2) the money would be better put to use targeting migrant issues. So that’s what happened there.

What is your charitable giving philosophy? How much did you donate in 2018 and to what organizations? 

What’s Your Personal Discretionary Spending?

The past couple months, my husband and I have been easing into a his-hers-ours version of joint finances. As part of that system, we each get $600 of discretionary “allowance” money, no questions asked, shielded off from each other in our own personal accounts.

Spoiler alert: I’m having a hard time with it.

I knew I had inflated my lifestyle since I started working six years ago. What I didn’t realize is just how much. You can see in my previous budget update that I like to eat out a lot, though I guess I’ve documented that pretty well over the months. In addition I go to a fancy climbing gym near our home — it’s so convenient, I love the exercise classes, I guest in friends all the time. And then there are my material wants: nice clothes, noise canceling headphones so I can actually focus in my open office. My wants are overwhelming. I am, very clearly, not frugal.

The other thing we’ve been trying to calibrate as a couple is what actually counts as discretionary spending, like:

  • Clothes: I’ve been putting clothes on my personal account while he needs business casual clothes for work and has been putting on the joint.
  • Haircuts: He has more expensive hair maintenance than I do (dying and more frequent cuts)– is that a him thing or an us thing? We’d previously discussed this as being individual, but lately he’s gone to a cheaper place and wants to put on joint.
  • Gym: I could go to a cheaper gym but I like the nicer gym more, so I’ve defaulted to eating the expense in personal. On the other hand, I go frequently and it is an important facet of my health maintenance– physical, mental, and social. His therapy is a joint expense because it’s important for his self-care, so shouldn’t my gym membership be too for the same reason?

Writing it out, I realize part of the angst I am feeling is that in a lot of these cases we’re defaulting to his self-care as being a joint expense and mine as being an individual expense. There’s a lot there, including how we approach self-care and a lot of differences in our self-image (particularly our own body images) wrapped all up in there. So yeah, some “fun” (read: difficult but probably necessary) conversations to be had there. Whee.

Obviously, I / we don’t have answers to all of them, but we’re sorting through it. But I’d love to hear feedback from y’all:

Do you have a budget for your discretionary spending? If so, how much do you spend?

Is self-care an individual or a joint expense? What type of self-care is a “want” versus a “need”?

Financial Update – November 2018

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 current goal is to reach “Financial Freedom.” By the time we reach this goal we will have:

  • A retirement account that can support us when my husband hits 65
  • Two college savings funds funded for four years of in-state public university tuition, room, and board
  • An emergency fund for six or more months of living expenses
  • Sufficient liquidity for my husband and/or I to make a career change with one to two years’ runway
  • A mortgage less than two times our combined gross salaries without bonuses or equity.

Once “Financial Freedom” is achieved, the focus will then working be towards “Financial Equilibrium”, where the income from investments covers all our ongoing expenses.

november

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).

joint nov 18.png

Here is my own personal discretionary spending for the month of November. I try to spend $600 or less each month for my “fun money” since that’s the allowance that’s apportioned to me and my husband.

ind spend nov 17

Monthly Summary

Some of these numbers are still in flux since we’re not quite done combining everything. But we’re getting close. I can feel it.

October and November I really took a good at our joint finances (in part because we started putting an estate plan together) and boy howdy we spend a lot for the two of us. Yikes. Like, I knew this, but I didn’t really internalize it until I went through my husband’s auto insurance statements. Auto premiums in this city are bonkers.

The other big annoying thing for us is health care. Apparently, contrary to what I thought, my husband’s open enrollment period is exactly six months from my company’s open enrollment period. But we want him on our insurance long-term because of his recurring specialist sessions, which are covered on my insurance but not his. I’m super afraid that him being on two insurance is going to lead to a coordination of benefits nightmare in the meantime where we pay out the nose covering both deductibles before getting anything covered. Had we known his insurance would leave such a gap for his specialist sessions before or right after we had gotten married, we could have switched him over then. But we didn’t find out until two months after our nupitals. So. Whatever.

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate health insurance in the US? It’s a really dumb and unintuitive system.

In any case, that means we’re going to be paying on the order of $500/month just for his medical care for six months, then that should go down to $300/month for him when his insurance switches over. Assuming all goes well, which, who knows! Medical billing is an endless nightmare!

Edit: adding my husband to my insurance maybcount as a qualifying event? Which is good is true, because then we won’t have to have him double-covered. Stay tuned as I continue to be flabbergasted by the rigamaroles of insurance. Wheeee.

Anyway, here are the minor steps we have taken / will take to hopefully chip away at these recurring numbers in the long term:

  1. Switch husband to my insurance (saving $200/month)
  2. Find cheaper auto insurance (unknown savings)
  3. Trade in my Google Fi for Mint Mobile (saving ~$40/month)
  4. Cancel Amazon Prime which I mostly used to watch Tokyo Girl (saving ~$13/month)
  5. Set up system to enforce submitting work reimbursements (~75/month, though won’t reduce line item in monthly reporting)

Things that will probably increase our spending:

  1. Putting an estate plan into place
  2. Getting life, disability, and umbrella insurance

We’re also not going to do any more clothes shopping on the joint account (husband really needed more basics for work so we got him a couple things at Uniqlo, but going forward we’ll both be using our discretionary account for those items).

As for my personal spending this month: food. What else is new?

Notable things that happened in October and November include:

  • Got married!
  • Surprise $10k raise at work
  • Went to my first cooking class with Little Sis

How were your finances in November?

Week In The Wallet: Turkey Edition

Saturday

Wake up feeling like I have been hit by a truck. I can’t tell if it’s the weather or the work stress. Grumble grumble. In any case I spend a good part of the morning wrapped up in blankets and scrolling through Jameela Jamil’s Instagram for gems like:

At some point I get my weekly local food delivery. I changed over from my pseudo CSA to this service because it allowed me to get fish, dairy, grain, and veggies all in one go rather than just produce alone. I get pizza dough, apples, beets, butternut squash, salmon, cilantro, greek yogurt, spinach, and a bazillion red onions. ($59)

IMG_20181117_110111

While I cook, I eat some of my leftovers from last week: bok choy, roasted mix vegetables, and peanut pork pan fried noodles. From what was sitting in the fridge and the new delivery I make up some beet carrot salad, pan fried salmon, roasted butternut squash with leftover rosemary, chopped spinach, and caramelized onions to use for a pizza sauce later in the week.

As much as I dread going outside, I make a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up my new obsession: Spendrift cucumber water. I also get a trifecta of mozzarella, pecorino, and ricotta cheese for pizza and fancy oat and sea salt soap bars because apparently I am fully a millennial now and these little luxuries unironically #sparkjoy in my life. What have I become… ($24.13)

In the evening I visit my friends for board game night, bringing my beet carrot salad as a side dish offering. I forget to bring Lactaid pills and we’re eating spinach lasagna with bechamel  sauce so I run to the CVS to buy some ($12.21) We end up playing rummy cube and they feed us spinach ricotta lasagna and an almond torte. Nomnomnom.

Daily total: $95.34

Sunday

Laze around on the internet all morning, too cozy under my warm blanket to make myself breakfast. At some point I muster up enough energy to make pizza with my husband. The toppings include: caramelized onions sauce, mozzarella, ricotta, pecorino, gouda (leftover in the fridge), basil, and spinach. The crust could probably have used a wee bit more precooking but otherwise it is quite tasty.

After pizza and Jeopardy watching– apparently Netflix added the championship episodes from like three years ago– I go for a run at the gym. By the time all that’s done it’s only like six in the evening, but I’m feeling exhausted and potentially depressed from the perpetual overcast weather, so I do my evening prep early and head to bed.

Daily total: $0

Monday

I woke up with godawful fits and starts between midnight and two, but managed to sleep again through seven in the morning. I get ready and check my work email: 31 messages since Friday evening. Not terrible. Except three of them are actually tasks that I need to do “immediately” because the founder said so. Sigh.

I get to the office and realize I left my key card at home. Ugh. Our desk space requires a badge and is separate from the kitchen and bathrooms, which means I’m going to have an annoying and awkward time.

For lunch I eat peanut pork noodles, beet and carrot salad, and some chopped spinach.

I start to prep salmon for dinner and then drop the pan– fish, hot oil, and all– right on the floor. Today is just not my day. I end up eating what amounts to a carbon copy of my lunch.

My husband’s therapist sends us an email in the evening, letting us know that his insurance doesn’t cover their sessions, retroactive three months. So we owe her ~$1200. He really likes seeing her and it’s made a big difference for his wellbeing so we’re not going to drop it, but I find this notification long after the fact really annoying and unprofessional (like, you know, most medical billing). We can handle that sort of one-off expense without much trouble, but for a lot of people that’d be a real emergency. It looks like she’ll take my employer’s insurance, so we’ll probably switch him over to my plan going forward as part of open enrollment.

Daily total: $0

Tuesday

My morning, like most, is filled with back to back meetings. I take a quick break to load up on Indian buffet food before our organization-wide “Here’s the state of things” meeting. ($15) Surprise surprise, we have infinite prospects and work to do and are slow at hiring. Also we’re moving offices. In two weeks. Thanks for giving us a lot of heads up, management!

One of the mid-level folks from a perspective customer is in town for the holidays. I buy some a bunch of desserts from the patisserie downstairs to welcome her, which I’ll get reimbursed by my employer later. We chat a bit with one of my direct colleagues and one of our founders. It sounds like they’ll make a decision which way they’re going in a week or so. Given that she’s bothering to visit our office, it seems like good tidings for us? This would be a really big account with a lot of interesting work directly affecting my day to day, so I’m hopeful.

By the time dinner rolls around I’m still pretty full from my Indian food. More Jeopardy, cucumber Spendrift, and trying really hard to turn off my angry and addled brain.

Daily total: $15

Wednesday

Relatively slow day at the office because of the upcoming holiday weekend. Which means I can finally catch up on everything (or, well, some of the things).

My grand-boss invites me out to Au Bon Pain for lunch where I order a turkey sandwich. She pays. We chat about how my work is going, all the projects coming up, how short staffed we are, etc. We also talk about the banal personal stuff: kids, spouses, etc.

I head home early because the office is basically empty and most of my afternoon meetings have been cancelled. My in-laws are planning on ordering pizza for dinner. The combination of carbs, marinara, and cheese often gives me a stomach ache (which is why we made white pizza earlier in the week) so I let them know I’ll probably eat leftovers at our house before we drive over.

More noodles, salad, and cucumber water for dinner. I’m intent on NOT bringing my laptop to the in-laws’, so I try to finish everything up work-wise before my husband gets home. We then drive over and watch even more Jeopardy, this time with teen contestants.

My mother-in-law mentions to me how in retiring she’s worrying about money for the first time. I’ve worried for years that they weren’t saving enough, but had been told repeatedly that they had “more than enough.” From back of the envelope calculations, it sounds like she has her house paid off, about a half million in assets, and $4-5k a month coming in between Social Security and her pension. Plus she and her husband plan to do some part time work as well. So they should be in a pretty comfortable place, at least as long as their health stays good. But, man, it’s a far cry from what they’d made their savings out to be. It makes me frustrated in hindsight by how much they supplemented by husband’s lifestyle for so many years rather than prioritizing their own savings.

Daily total: $0

Thursday

I snack on olive oil crackers and Kerrygold cheddar for lunch. The holidays are delicious. My husband and I help with some Thanksgiving sides and keep his cousin’s children entertained with board games before dinner. The final spread includes: turkey, rolls, butternut squash, sweet potato casserole, Brussel sprouts, cranberry sauce, cookies, and pumpkin pie. Nom nom nom. A really nice, chill day.

Daily total: $0

Friday

I have the rest of the salmon and some leftover turkey for lunch, on top of salad and chopped spinach. Leftovers: a blessing and also– after a week of repeats– kind of a curse.

I don’t manage to drag myself away from reading and watching travel planning videos to Japan (we’re hoping to go next year as a last hurrah before babies) until three in the afternoon. I go to a nearby Japanese street food restaurant for some gyoza and croquette combination bowl. The meal is served with a side salad, but it’s only until I’ve snarfed down half of it that I realize I should ask what type of lettuce they used. It was green leaf, thankfully, and we (me, the shop owner, and the staff) had a good laugh at both my greedy eating and impotent worrying. Ha. ha. ha. ($17)

I feel like sitting at my favorite tea shop and read the rest of the evening away, but they’re full up. After checking a few of my favorite bakeries to find them closed for the weekend, I make a last stop at the one nearest home and pick up a tiny (fits in the palm of my hand) pumpkin loaf. ($5). Once I get home, I pan-toast it with butter and share with my husband for dessert. Nom.

The evening is spent chilling out, mostly reading Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee. It is fine, but much less of a compelling read than Pachinko. Also more videos about Japanese food, because apparently I am hungry forever.

Daily total: $22

Summary

Total spending: $132.34

Looking back on my diary, it’s clear I was really depressed this past week. Having grown up in the sunny Southwest, the overcast weather really does a number on me mentally. Also, I’ve been investing myself too much in my work, emotionally speaking. Taking my laptop home night after night is a huge red flag that I’m spiraling. Going forward I’m going to endeavor to avoid that behavior and, instead, add structure to my weekday evenings so they aren’t wasted away on television/other poor decompression methods.

How was your Thanksgiving? How much do you think is “enough” to retire regularly?

How Much Did We Spend On Our Wedding?

wedding.png

Our wedding has come and gone. We are now married. (This, in my book, was always the minimum threshold of success.)

In terms of cost, I think we did pretty well. I talked with one of my coworkers before the event, astonishingly telling her “average wedding costs” per women’s magazines and the like ($30k+ in our area). As a part-time wedding hair stylist, she didn’t believe those numbers for a second. “It’s at least $80k out where I live on the Cape!” I think we run in very different circles.

As you can tell from the table above, we got a lot of help with wedding costs. His mother insisted on paying for the catering, which was by far the most expensive line item. It costs a lot to feed 60 people! That said, our caterers were excellent. Everyone seemed to enjoy the food; they did all the set-up, clean-up, and serving labor; plus they provided hot apple cider and coffee for our guests, and welcome end to the event on a cool fall day outdoors. And after the event they packed up all the extra food for us, which meant our diet was nothing but wedding leftovers for an entire week.

There were a couple things here and there that didn’t go quite as planned. Because our original musician ended up moving away for conservatory, we decided to go the “let’s play something on our computer” route. Unfortunately, our speakers just decided not to work? So that was kind of a bust.

But overall the event was fine to good. The weather was perfect and the trees in the park had just started turning their leaves, bits of red and orange flecks amongst the mostly-green topiary. I brought a dozen decks of playing cards for people to use during the reception and I think it really helped in keeping our guests entertained. I got to see some out-of-town friends, which was nice. And our families were on their best behavior– a welcome relief.

I might update this post with some wedding photos once our photographer sends us the final copies. Or I might not. If you can’t tell, I’m mostly just glad our wedding is behind us. I love my husband and enjoy being married. But, big orchestrated events? I can do without another one of those for a good, long time.

Did you enjoy your wedding? How much did you spend on “the big day”?

Financial Update – September 2018

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 net worth progress.
  • Spending Table – Compares monthly spending to an average (for me) “bare bones” budget, keeping me accountable for additional expenses.

For now, monthly updates include only my personal net worth and spending. As my fiancé and I combine our finances, updates will shift to cover going values instead.

Financial Progress

Each net worth goal in the Financial Progress table is broken down into undisclosed units of money. My current goal is to reach “Financial Freedom.” By the time I reach this goal I will have:

  • A retirement account that can support us when my fiancé hits 65
  • Two college savings funds funded for four years of in-state public university tuition, room, and board
  • An emergency fund for six or more months of living expenses
  • Sufficient liquidity for my fiancé and/or I to make a career change with one to two years’ runway
  • A mortgage less than two times my gross salary without bonuses

Once “Financial Freedom” is achieved, the focus will then working be towards “Financial Equilibrium”, where the income from investments covers all our ongoing expenses.

sept 2018

Spending

I’ve created a “bare bones” budget which represents the average minimum amount I can expect to spend each month. This is the minimum amount I need to comfortably live in case of a job loss, emergency, etc. I expect to frequently go over my “bare bones” budget in a number of categories (here’s looking at you, “Groceries & Dining”), but I want to remain accountable to myself when I do so.

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

sept 18

Monthly Summary

Just so ready for this year to be over.

Notable things that happened this month include:

How were your finances in September?