In FI Bloglandia style, I have decided to start listing some of my numbers. I had been putting off a review. I read a lot of blogs. Lots of blogger’s compose end of the year recaps and I studied their numbers. Frankly, I just put my end of the year recap off. I wanted to let the dust settle until after our big move. My goal is to snapshot major expense categories, savings, and income. Eventually I may be brave enough to bare it all including net worth…but it doesn’t feel right to get totally naked yet. The goal is threefold. Staying on target, monitoring monthly progress and chronicling the hiccups and the bumpy path to Leanfire. Chronicling progress is better (and much more honest!) when immersed in total reality.
I have to reiterate….”I’m such a work in progress”. I spent a lot of money last year but it was a lot less than the previous year. The portfolio increased by more than a third. I maxed out the 403b, HSA and Roth accounts for the first time and grew the balance on my Vanguard taxable account. My savings rate hovered between 25-50% percent most months when taking into account the pre-tax, emergency savings, and post-tax retirement investing. Last month, I achieved a savings rate of 80%. Progress indeed. Progress is good, sweet and delicious. A gray brooding day became a bright one when I finished crunching numbers.
I’m kinda going out on a limb here in a couple of ways. I use Personal Capital to keep track of my finances. When it comes to Excel spreadsheets, I am a novice. I’m a healthcare provider and an artsy fartsy creative so I have not been required to learn much about spreadsheets.
I am a huge fan of on line calculators including Mad Fientist’s Countdown to FI, Nerdwallet and Bankrate. I don’t particularly enjoy math but I do enjoy numbers. Looking at these calculators and other blogger’s monthly budgets, cashflows and monthly snapshots, captivates me. I love seeing what people value and how they manage things so nicely. I love peeking at their savings rates and net worths. The reports are so pretty and presented attractively with color coding, graphs, charts and the like. Mine will not be “pretty”. I’m up for learning those skills, though, so maybe in the future, you will see some good, steady progress in that regard. So, these are the basics.
I’ve elected to put all of my regular W-2 Income into maxing out my 457 plan, a regular contribution to my HSA, and a small amount in 403(b) with each bi-weekly pay period. Pre-tax, pre-tax, pre-tax contributions. I make a little over $135K per year so I need to reduce my Federal and State Taxes in 2018 especially in light of a house sale on 12/28/2017 and changes in taxation. Because of the house sale, my mortgage interest as a sizable deduction is going away…just as tax reform made it less appealing. I am hyper focused on taxes because I have mostly zero’s coming in the way of deductions for 2018. It makes sense for me to max out my 403(b), 457, and HSA. I’m all in, first targeting the 457, then the 403(b) with regular monthly deductions in the HSA. It means four months without an income but instead saving, investing, buying Vanguard Institutional Shares in the HSA, the 403(b) and the 457. I’m “living” off of selling some of the stuff I’ve acquired, the tax refund I’ve gotten, and some of the house proceeds.
I don’t like wage slavery. I HATE politics and kissing ass. I hate mind numbing meetings. Hospital bureaucracy can make for some mind numbing meetings. Somedays, I’m ready to jump off the building. That is why I’m maxing the 457 first. Just in case I get the most irrational urge to say “Screw it, I ain’t takin’ this anymore”. At the very least, I will have maxed out a 457, the first year they’ve offered it. In addition, I will have maxed the 403(b) again. This, the first year I have been able to max out over $48K in pre-retirement vehicles. Yay, me!
I’m a single lady of 53 so this breaks down to pre-tax contributions of:
403(b) $18,500 plus catch up contribution $6,000 = $24,500
457 $18,500 plus catch up contribution $6,000 = $24,500
My total pre-tax contributions planned for 2018 thus equal the grand total of $52,450.
$135,000-52,450 = $82,550 smackeroos left.
I’ve estimated my taxes to be $13,165.50 (federal) and $4400 (state). I never really know if I’m doing this right and Uncle Sam scares the bejesus out of me. But dutifully, I consult Google and try to estimate my tax. This is what I got for 2018. I got a nice tax refund this year and although not ideal because it could have been invested, it was better than previous unpleasant tax surprises. I’ve come to terms with preferring to give than receive next year. After tax estimates, this leaves me a nice tidy sum of $64,984 as disposable income.
After my Roth contribution and taxable automated contributions, I’ll have approximately $52,484 left. My monthly living expenses equal just under that now. Some items that I expect to go down significantly are the following categories:
Medical/Dental. I had huge childhood fillings that had to be replaced with porcelain crowns. It’s been an expensive year for my mouth. In January, I shelled out another $1000 toward this endeavor. All my teeth are in tip top condition now and my dentist assures me that, catastrophe notwithstanding, I’ll die with all of my teeth. Weirdly, this is very important to me.
Shelter. I sold my too big, too expensive American Dream House. I also traded a big fat mortgage payment for $750/mo including utilities by cohabiting with my sweetheart, Jay. Cozy living has many advantages.
Grocery/Food/Restaurants. This was $684 on average per month last year. Yes, this could be better but I’m gluten free out of necessity. We like to cook. We do allow for nice evening meals since we rarely eat out. We are trying to incorporate more eggs, more beans, and two meals a day instead of three because of our growing interest in intermittent fasting. No promises here, but I see this going down a little bit.
Travel/Uber/Vacation/Rental Cars $262/month all said and done. We spent a lot on rental cars because we moved ourselves, renting moving vans for a few weeks. It was occasional agony in the allocation of donation vs. keep vs. storage. The week long rentals made this move easier. We also took a vacation to Florida, with the hospital reimbursing some of the trip. Progress, not perfection. I’ve already paid for 2018 FinCon Ticket. The hotel will be a big expense but I’m planning for it. I’ll probably rent another car…not sure of all the expenses involved here yet. I plan to upgrade my ticket to include meals, coffee, etc.
We will have a storage unit at $70/month but this will go away soon (fingers crossed). Going from 2300+sf to 701 sf was really hard but we made huge improvements and progress in “rightsizing”. I am hoping by June, this storage facility will be no more as we deal with the final decisions about things we don’t even miss or see on a daily basis.
Recreation/Art/Hobbies. This is a huge expense for me but now that I’ve branded myself the “Art Harlot”, I’m taming this monstrous category. $250 a month is crazy talk.
Automotive. About $200 and change per month. This was an expensive year for the baby Bimmer. I have a first year model of BMW i128i. I’ll drive it till the wheels fall off. It has relatively low mileage. I replaced the rag top last year (ouch, just north of $2K). My baby got new shoes and new brakes this year. I get her oil changed every 7500 miles although BMW says I can wait longer. I was raised better than that….lol. It feels weird doing the oil change every 7500 miles! It was drilled into my head as a young driver…every 3K.
Fuel. About $70/month. Work is about 4 1/2 miles from home but commuting in Atlanta is a bloodsport. I used to live just over 8 miles away and it took over an hour to get home most days. There are lots of minutes spent in baby Bimmer. Otherwise, I’ve learned to combine my trips. We’ll make slight improvements here since I’ve moved closer to work.
Car Insurance/Life/Renter’s/Umbrella $180 – I still keep a life policy because it’s relatively cheap. Renter’s insurance is a must for the storage and the condo. I’m over insured on life, I know….I’ll be attacking this in the next year but suffice it to say, I want my sweetheart to have nothing to worry about. I see women die all the time at my age. I can’t even tell you how real death at 50 is to me as it plays out at my workplace. Money can’t replace me but it can give him the rest of his life off the dreadmill and end his wage slavery once and for all.
Entertainment (Netflix,Amazon). I’ve finally let cable go, we bought an antennae, have a Firestick and two subscriptions. It’s plenty and, along with YouTube, even feels like too much at times. THIS was a hard battle to cut the cord….my sweetheart loves his sports. He had a very hard time with this. I spent months arguing my position. He saw the light.
Clothing/Shoes $72. I bought a few very expensive pairs of shoes this year. I’m on my feet for 10 hours/day four days a week. It was either the expensive shoes or pay for foot massages a lot. I now have the most expensive, but nicest collection of the ugliest nursing shoes ever. I cannot wear the same shoes day after day or my plantar fasciitis makes my life unpleasant as hell.
Home Improvement. I’m embarassed at this amount so I’m going to keep the figure to myself. This last year, I spent a lot of moolah on this. Between outfitting the 701 sf condo so it would fit two people and too many things and getting the too big too expensive American Dream house ready to sell. well….this was a ridiculous line item. This expense will go down because all I have left to do is 3 DIY closets. After throwing most of my wardrobe out….the walk in closet should actually feel quite spacious. I did the pantry/laundry room myself and now have a closet turned office and tool closet left. Ikea, I love you.
So, after looking at this, I also see improvements after I end life on the dreadmill. No more expensive shoes….my feet will no longer be killing me unless I finally realize my dream of hiking the Camino de Santiago. Less fuel for the car and less automotive maintenance are in the offing too! Once the closets are done and I’ve flexed my DIY muscle to the max, these home improvement costs will be done. And the storage unit will go away as an expense as I’ll have room for the backpacks and camping gear in the closets :).
If you’ve been reading along, you know the lightbulb went on a few years back. It illuminated just about every single thing in my life. Another re-invention occurred, ushering some rather dramatic change. Since then, I’ve been pulling out the stops to become an efficient optimizing human trying to live a life more intentionally. This means spending more intentionally too. This while not forgetting that I could also interject some joy into the journey as well. Again, I am aiming for progress. I’ve made some big strides and I have a ways to go. Stacking some Benjamins in the taxable account so I can Leanfire this year is my goal. What that Leanfire looks like is still a little foggy. It may involve PT work or a sabbatical. I’m still not sure. The point for me is that I will have the freedom to choose.
So, whew…my head just swam thru numbers and I did some math…and it was decidedly NOT depressing. The state of the finances is good. I feel blessed. I feel rich. I’ve never been in such a solid saving position before and I am just hanging on, keeping my head screwed on straight. I am glad I could bare a little bit of financial skin for you and still feel like I protected my modesty a bit. Thanks so much for reading :). Thanks for your comments and all your supportive and interesting thoughts, too.