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Tracking spending is a good way to stay on track for FI and make sure nothing gets out of control. It’s a way to evaluate your decisions and make adjustments for the next month, as necessary. I like to ask myself each month:
- “Did this purchase bring me enough happiness to justify the amount I spent?”
- “Can I do something differently to save more money?”
- “Are my savings being allocated efficiently?”
I hope you had an awesome October. The weather finally cooled down here and the leaves have already changed. Most of them are on the ground now – it’s really starting to feel like fall!
Our big adventure for the month was a trip down to Bentonville, Arkansas to see the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. It was SUPERB. I highly recommend visiting it if you get the chance.
The art on display is awesome, of course, but the building itself is a work of art. The museum is nestled in the woods and actually extends over a creek so that about half of the building is over water. The architect used a cable suspension system to support the structure like a suspension bridge (think Golden Gate Bridge), hence the word “bridges” in the title of the museum.
If you do visit, be sure to check out the Frank Lloyd Wright house on exhibit. The attention to detail is outstanding.
We spent two days at the museum. There is plenty to see, and lots worth seeing twice (which we did). During our visit, we even stopped by the original Walmart store, which is headquartered in Bentonville (and the museum was built by the Walton family). We got to sit in the same exact barber chair that Sam Walton got his haircuts in. WOW. WHAT AN EXPERIENCE. (sarcasm)
On to the numbers!
While our net income for this month was right around $0 (more on that below), our net worth still increased by $1,872 thanks to the continued climb on the stock market. I love index investing!
We are still holding off on paying down the student loan because it is in deferment (my wife is in graduate school, so no interest for now yay).
Here’s our net worth over time. We’re up over $50,000 since last October!
According to Personal Capital, our investments are up 1.72%, which is slightly lower than the S&P 500. That’s because we are slightly more small-cap-weighted than the S&P 500, and small cap indexes didn’t perform as well this month.
And now…the skeletons in our closet.
Our spending for October topped out at $6,725. Before you scoff or cringe or fall into a crying heap or all three, let me explain. The high spending is due to payments for three different future trips:
- Plane tickets for our trip to Ireland in 2018!
- Plane tickets for our trip to New Mexico for Christmas!
- Lodging for our trip to Mexico in December! (friend’s wedding)
You’re probably asking yourself: “Why not pay for your plane tickets using points from credit cards?”
Well, that’s because we ain’t got any. I just recently jumped on the travel rewards train, so we are just now beginning to accumulate them. I started with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and these recent payments are quite helpful in getting us to the signup bonus.
Our restaurant spending was a little high this month. The trip to Arkansas was for my birthday, so we went out to a nice dinner that weekend. At least alcohol spending is lower!
Bills were high, too. Turns out there was a mix up with the electrical bill and we missed the last two months’ bills, so we got to pay extra this month! Yay! The other abnormality was that the annual registration fee for my car was due.
Of our total income, we directly (and automatically) invested $1,079.
“Wait, only $1,079?” Yes, in preparation for starting our journey in real estate investing, I have reduced my 401(k) contributions to the maximum employer match, which is currently 6%.
Retirement accounts are one of the easiest ways to access free money. Our taxes are reduced, and my employer contributes a portion (3%) of my salary to my 401(k). We will continue to contribute the maximum to both IRA’s ($5,500/year each), but not the maximum to my 401(k) ($18,000/year).
Things to work on
Our high rent is starting to bother me. We moved to our current apartment in June and it was an “upgrade” from our last apartment. We were ready for something nicer (basically we are just tired of living the same way as we did in college), but it came at a price. Yes, this would qualify as lifestyle inflation. No, I don’t think you should do that.
Your housing situation is probably the most expensive part of your budget. This is certainly true in our case, so the easiest way for us to reduce our spending is to cut our housing costs. As much as I don’t want to move AGAIN, we are looking at buying a house for our personal residence that will eventually become a rental property.
In the coming months, we will continue to prioritize building up cash instead of other more tax-efficient savings, like my 401(k). I hate to do it, but it’s necessary.
How was your month? Did you meet your goals? Let me know in the comments!